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Topic: NCLB: First graders will be left behind-PART II
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
NCLB: First graders will be left behind-PART II
Posted: Jan 27, 2005 7:15 PM
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From Substance, September-December, 2004, p. 24,20.21. Article was
typed from the original article in Substance.
Since each state selects a test and sets the definition of what
constitutes proficiency, numbers of failing schools vary widely from
state to state - so widely that failing means very different things
in different states. Last year Alabama reported 4.6 % of their public
schools failed to make AYP. But next door in Florida 87.1 % failed.
Can that really mean that Alabama schools are far better than Florida
schools? This year Indiana had 4.1 % of schools failing for 2 years
and the District of Columbia had 43.6 %. If a school is failing for
two years it is subject to "corrective action."

The law also classifies any school district as failing if one school
in it is failing. In Idaho 11.3% of schools have failed for two years
but 38.3 % of Idaho's school districts are failing. Nationally, this
year almost 20,000 schools will be labeled failing one year and
almost 10,000 will be failing for two or more years and are subject
to penalties.

But NCLB is like a mortgage with a balloon payment. States can use an
easy test or hard one. They can slow down the impact of NCLB or speed
it up. But by 2014, in every state, all students in all sub groups
must be scoring at the proficient level.

This election year the federal monitors have been lenient a bit in
how much they pushed the states. But the pressure will be kept up on
states and local districts as these children progress through primary
grades. Because all children in every state must be tested in third
grade it will be to the advantage of schools to fail children in
second grade who are likely to pull down the test scores as third
graders. Each year the number of children who avoid failing a year
will drop so that by the time they reach middle school an alarming
number of pupils will have failed at least one year.

Predictably the toll will be heaviest among the poor, children of
color, immigrants and handicapped pupils. These face a double blow
under the law. They must all take the same test. And they must pass
at the same rate as all other groups in their schools. Studies show
that NCLB punishes diversity. A stated purpose of NCLB is to
eliminate the gaps between the haves and the have nots in our
schools, between poor and rich, between white and people of color.
But the means to that end is to require all students to pass the same
tests at the same high levels. And remember, 95% of a group must be
present for the test. If parents choose to keep their kids out of the
test or the school is hit by flu it fails.

Currently many award winning schools are failing because of a single
group such as the English language learners. Scarsborough, New York
is a failing district because 15% of parents kept their children home
on test days. Scottsdale, Arizona with six percent African American
pupils is failing because that one group missed adequate yearly
progress. A New Hampshire superintendent says that his schools have
105 ways to fail on NCLB. That means that pupils in the groups
schools have not served well are more likely to be left behind or
pushed out under NCLB. If a school, or school district, is labeled
failing because of one sub group, what will be the tensions that
develop between that group and the rest of the students?

By the time current first graders enter middle school two-thirds will
be entering schools labeled as failing and when, and if , they reach
high school it will be hard to find a school not labeled failing.
Predictions from California, Minnesota and Connecticut are for
virtually all schools to be labeled failing by 2014.

Right now, around 30% of students, depending on the state, leave
school without graduating high school. Under the NCLB with many more
students starting school this year failing at least one grade before
they would enter 10th grade that figure is likely to increase
dramatically. Research shows that students who fail a grade are
unlikely to stay in school until graduation. That will be even more
likely in the increasing number of states that will deny a diploma to
those who fail to pass high stakes high school tests. And under NCLB
high schools have an incentive to get rid of the students who bring
down their pass rates. Already a scandal has been exposed in Houston
in which over a third of 9th graders left school without graduating
but the school system was reporting no dropouts.

When these issues have been raised with the ardent advocates of NCLB,
they respond that the law contains remedies to help the failing
schools achieve. Parents have the option to have their children
transported to another school from a failing school, for example, at
the expense of the districts.

But in a city like Chicago, with a high number of failing schools,
there are few schools to accept transfer students. In New York
transfers have led to severe overcrowding and resulted in more
failing schools. In rural areas there are no alternative schools and
in places like Alaska there may be no practical ways of transporting

Let's suppose, however, that parents choose to have their first
grader transferred to a school which is not failing. That means the
child is leaving the neighborhood. But then if that school becomes a
failing school will the parents again request a transfer? So far,
most parents have opted to keep their children in their neighborhood

Parents of children in failing schools may also request private
tutoring. But NCLB does not permit the local school districts to
provide the tutoring themselves; they must contract with approved
private providers whose fees range from $40-80 per hour per pupil.
And the tutors provided are likely to have less professional training
than the classroom teachers. Furthermore since the help is provided
to those whose parents request it, children who need help will not
necessarily get it and students may get it who don't need it. Because
the tutoring is off site and often after school many parents choose
not to request it. The Hawaiian department of education is flying
tutors from a private company at great expense from Honolulu to the
island of Molokai where the schools are labeled failing.

Another remedy offered to "failing schools" is that the state sends
in a team to "help" it become more successful. These teams are
trained in the narrow methods and materials the Washington
implementers are pushing as "evidence based," They become enforcers
limiting the flexibility of the teachers to vary the experiences of
learners using their professional judgment.

NCLB has a goal to have "highly qualified teachers" in every
classroom. But as the law defines that, this year's first graders are
likely to have fewer teachers with professional education and
certification. Many teachers are taking early retirement for a
variety of reasons. These include restrictions on their ability to
use their professional judgments on behalf of their pupils, heavy
paperwork involved in NCLB and unwillingness to use methods and
materials they don't agree with. These teachers are often replaced
with teachers certified through alternative routes with little
professional education. The Bush administration has set a procedure
for national certification through passing tests with no professional
education course work.

Elementary heritage language programs in native communities are
disappearing because the law requires that teacher aides have two
year college degrees. In many rural communities, those currently
working as aides will lose their jobs adding to the high unemployment
NCLB requires secondary teachers to have degrees in the subjects they
teach. But most middle school teachers are generalists who teach more
than one subject. So when these first graders reach middle school
they will be finding highly experienced teachers replaced with
teachers who can only teach one subject such as history, or chemistry.

Small high schools in rural areas are being told that the common
practice of having one teacher teach all the science courses is
unacceptable. If the chemistry teacher is going to teach biology then
he or she must take an examination or an additional degree to be
considered qualified.

If parents are worried about what the future holds for their kids
once they leave school, NCLB has an answer for that too. The law
requires school officials to provide the names and addresses of all
school leavers to the Defense Department which will be happy to
provide employment opportunities.

It should be clear that NCLB would be better called "No child left
Unscarred." It is a law that can not succeed in its stated goal of
bringing all children to proficiency. If the law was designed to make
public schools look like failures then in fact it is likely to
succeed. But then what would American education become? It would
become a system much like that in many third world countries.
Children of the wealthy would be in private schools. Middle class
parents would buy the best education they can afford for their kids
with most priced out of the prestige schools. A small number of high
achievers would make it through because business needs them to be the
technicians, engineers and scientists. And the public schools that
are left would serve the working poor providing a pool of cheap labor
for business, industry and the military.

Scrooge asks the Ghost of Christmas yet to come if the terrible
scenes he is shown are what must be or whether he has the power to
change them. All that I have predicted are the inevitable results of
the NCLB law as it is currently written and enforced. NCLB is the
product of politicians. Under pressure from parents and other voters,
all or some of it can be changed by the politicians that enacted the
law. The only way to avoid or limit its impact on our children and
young people is also political. It is discouraging that in an
election year neither party or their candidates are indicating they
will make any changes in the law itself or any long term changes in
its enforcement.

At some point this punitive law will implode on itself as it affects
more and more children and more and more families. If parents join to
support teachers, administrators and school boards in resisting NCLB
much of its potential effects can be avoided. But if it takes too
long for the resistance to become effective, the damage to public
education in the United States may be catastrophic.
NCLB 'Bottom Line' boomerangs against Chicago's teacher bashers

By George N. Schmidt

Despite the fact that many of the most punitive mandates now in "No
Child Left Behind" have been field tested in Chicago since the
corporate version of "school reform" began in 1995 with the mayoral
takeover of the public schools, those who bash teachers using a
fatuous "bottom line" based on biased standardized test scores are
get caught in the same statistical traps they use against others.

On December 9, the Chicago Board of Education's communications
department convened a hastily assembled press briefing after federal
officials announced that Chicago would not be allowed to use city
teachers to tutor "failing" children under No Child Left Behind since
Chicago is a "failing district." A district that has 'failed' must
hire private companies to do it.

Duncan [CEO of Chicago schools) routinely bashes teachers and schools
for failing to meet impossible "bottom line" goals. He failed to
realize that the privatization agenda he supports in many cases is
ultimately aimed at his staff as well. Tutoring and transfers are
just the beginning.
Jerry P. Becker
Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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