Schools face challenge from government
Called the most sweeping education bill in decades, the No Child Left Behind act has its own impact on the two South Shore school districts.
The act, roughly 1,000 pages long and signed into law by President Bush in January 2002, will require states to construct test standards in three core subjects for tracking students’ progress.
If a school fails in student progress, the particular district would have to pay if the student wanted to go to an achieving school. Ultimately, if a school remains inadequate, the government can seize the facility.
States are working on standards in reading and math. By the 2005-2006 school year, states are mandated to institute a science standard. Test scores will be used by the government to check on the progress made by students belonging to minorities, those living under conditions of poverty and those with disabilities.
The act will also provide charter schools with more flexibility in course offerings in exchange for higher standards.
John Soderman, superintendent of Douglas County School District, spoke about the act’s impact after attending two discussions on the matter.
Soderman called the law’s philosophy successful, but remains skeptical about the practicality of applying the law in the real world.
“The logistical stuff hasn’t been ironed out and will take time to iron out,” Soderman said from his Minden office.
The superintendent cited concerns including over-testing children, manpower needed to process the information and the amount of schools which would be deemed inadequate.
Barbara Davis, assistant superintendent with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District who recently came back from a No Child Left Behind seminar in Anaheim, could not be reached for comment.
The standardized Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which took over for the TerraNova test, will be used this year to mark students’ academic level for No Child Left Behind, Soderman said.
Given to fourth- and seventh-graders and high-school sophomores, the test is used to compare student skills in reading, math, language arts and science to their nationwide peers.
Five ethnic groups combined with nine areas for educational requirements make 45 areas that schools must make progress in to avoid being deemed inadequate, Soderman said. He believes the lofty goal will leave about 80 percent of schools in Nevada, and other states, inadequate, thus risking a student migration to high-performing public, private and alternative education facilities.
The loss of students to other schools could create transportation problems, such as busing children who went to Kingsbury Middle School to a school in the valley, Soderman cited as an example. Losing students to other districts would mean a loss of state funding for enrollment.
A high-performing school could lose its status with student overcrowding, space availability and increased teacher responsibilities.
There are over 20 people working on the bill at the California Department of Education. Right now, those employees are busy disseminating information to school districts and finalizing a plan.
California received $2 billion for about 14 programs that mostly deal with poor students, said Don Kairott, department coordinator for No Child Left Behind implementation.
No Child Left Behind is a replacement to 1994’s Improving America’s Schools Act, which was one of a string of Congress-approved reauthorizations to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
The consequences of using test scores to measure progress is nothing new, said Rebecca Parker, a consultant with the California Department of Education. But the institution of a 2013 deadline that each student meets their state’s proficiency requirement in English and math is an added twist.
“Every kid needs to get there,” Parker said. “That’s huge, just huge.”
States will be given federal money, including a pot to raise the scores of poverty-stricken students, which has been a long-time concern for the government. Students in poverty will be determined by census data collected in 2000, Kariott said.
The money is flexible enough to be used a variety of ways to raise scores, such as hiring qualified teachers (an act requirement for 2005) and staff development.
Gloria Dopf, assistant deputy superintendent for the Nevada Department of Education, is concerned with the possible ramifications of the bill.
Before the No Child Left Behind act, the government required assessment and reporting on Title One schools, which serve a majority of students who are economically challenged.
But now it’s all schools, including Nevada, which has over 400.
— Contact William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org
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