Educators say No Child leaves schools behind

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The No Child Left Behind Act passed eight years ago this month has forced improvements, but some local educators say facets of the law could be tweaked.

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Students work in a social studies class at Glenn Hills High School. The No Child Left Behind Act requires a class size of about 20, but schools are forced to have larger classes because of lack of funding. The 2002 federal law also sets universal proficiency standards to be met by 2014.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Students work in a social studies class at Glenn Hills High School. The No Child Left Behind Act requires a class size of about 20, but schools are forced to have larger classes because of lack of funding. The 2002 federal law also sets universal proficiency standards to be met by 2014.

"No Child Left Behind should focus on an individualized student growth model or value-added model versus a single score, with the goal to target a performance standard to reach for each student," Richmond County schools Superintendent Dana Bedden wrote in a recent e-mail.

Too often, some say, the legislation has painted a broad view of a system based on meeting overall standardized test scores and Adequate Yearly Progress, a goal that can be accomplished systemwide only if 100 percent of targets are met.

"A lot of people wonder why our system hasn't been labeled as making AYP," Dr. Bedden recently told a group of area legislators. But he said the local school system has met 90 percent or better of its performance targets. "So we're working in the right direction."

National push for change

The law -- which was crafted by the Bush administration and enacted on Jan. 8, 2002 -- calls for universal proficiency standards to be met by 2014. It is once again in the spotlight as President Obama's administration considers changes.

Toward the end of last year, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was wrapping up a Listening and Learning Tour throughout the country to get public input about what the future of No Child Left Behind should be. In September he spoke about reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to include changes to No Child Left Behind.

A time frame for a reauthorization hasn't been released, and messages left for Mr. Duncan's office weren't immediately returned. But in a speech a few months ago, he said the law has significant flaws because it "puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, unfairly labels many schools as failures, and doesn't account for students' academic growth in its accountability system," according to the Department of Education's Web site.

The Obama administration also has started its own school reform program, called Race to the Top, through which school systems compete for funding with a plan to improve low-performing schools. Richmond County school board members recently agreed to apply for Race to the Top funding, knowing Georgia has the potential to receive $200 million to $400 million.

Underfunded mandates

As for No Child Left Behind, educators often complain that it has mandates that aren't properly funded.

"No Child Left Behind has never been fully funded, thus requiring school districts to spend more local money or redirect funds," Dr. Bedden said.

One such cost has been in providing transportation to those who opt for school choice should their school qualify. The choice option allows students at schools deemed in need of improvement to go to another school, causing more costly and lengthier student trips.

About three years ago, Columbia County had one Title 1 school -- Harlem Middle -- that offered school choice, said Columbia County's Title 1 director, Lisa Soloff. The system offered to pay mileage to parents to transport their child to another school. Dr. Soloff said the system got lucky in that only a few parents chose to do so.

She said money for such transportation is provided through Title 1 funding, and it cuts down on available funds for instruction and other costs.

Glenn Hills High School Principal Wayne Frazier said another underfunded No Child Left Behind mandate is the class-size requirement. Dr. Frazier said according to the original federal guideline, his classes should be around 20 students to one teacher. However, he said, to get to that level money would be needed for more teachers. Instead, the school system occasionally requests waivers from the state to allow a larger classes.

"The intent of No Child Left Behind is well and good, but it means nothing if there's no money to back up all of this stuff," he said.

Testing and the positives

Dr. Soloff said No Child Left Behind has brought about a greater focus on minority and economically disadvantaged subgroups, which she considers one of its biggest advantages.

"I would say on the pro side it's definitely made us more accountable for our student achievement, and we're looking more closely at subgroups," she said.

When it comes to testing, the overall measure of a school and system comes down to whether you're on a Needs Improvement list or considered making Adequate Yearly Progress.

AYP includes test participation, academic achievement and a "second indicator" that includes the graduation rate. In Richmond County, testing results and graduation rates have been improving in recent years, with three more schools recently being removed from the Needs Improvement List.

In Columbia County, Harlem High and North Harlem Elementary failed to make AYP in the most recent report, released in October, but they did show improvement from a preliminary report issued earlier in 2009.

Calls and e-mails to Aiken County Superintendent Beth Everitt were not returned.

Steve Dolinger, the president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said his group supports "the concept" of No Child Left Behind, noting that it "put a spotlight on data for the first time."

Some negative aspects

Dr. Soloff said the testing doesn't allow special-needs students to be classified as a subgroup. She said they aren't tested on different criteria from other students, meaning their results are factored in the same, and that can hurt a school's overall figures.

"We're holding everybody accountable for the same standards. ... Those (special needs) students should not be held to the same standards as our gifted and average to above average," she said.

"Special-education expectations for student performance need to be modified," added Dr. Bedden.

Dr. Frazier said when he was at Tubman Middle School he noticed another difficulty.

"We were weighted on No Child Left Behind based on student attendance, which we had zero control over," he said, adding that to address the issue he and some of his teachers would go to students' homes to make sure they made it to class.

"The key thing is everybody's not going to do that," he said.

Susan Walker, the director of policy and research for the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said under the act schools also are measured on meeting a specific bar but not on how much they've improved.

"There's the bar, and you either meet it or you don't meet it," she said, adding that in any reauthorization of the bill a better measure of student growth will be "a critical piece."

Leaving no children behind

Pamela Ward, the principal of Glenn Hills Elementary, said No Child Left Behind was "an eye-opener for all of us," but she's seen mostly positives.

"First of all, it forced us to look at individual students and their particular needs and see that some were about to be left behind," she said. "It has given each of us as educators a chance to explore our teaching strategies and to realize that we had to change some of the ways we were doing things in the classroom."

Her school began "progress monitoring," through which students are regularly assessed throughout the year, instead of only at the end of a semester or the school year.

"We are catching children that are having difficulties earlier and intervening sooner so that the children become more successful."

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

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johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 01/18/10 - 05:09 am
0
0
The German education model is

The German education model is one we should emulate. Children are a product of their environment and with parenting skills obviously at a premium in this area, much of this environment in less than optimum. The Germans school their children for 13 years. The first 6 is foundation education, reading and writing, math, exposure to science and history. The children are then separated into one of the two available paths, determined by the effort and success of the first 6 years. The top of the class is diverted toward the academic pursuits of technology, legal and medical professions and the more challenging goals offered by higher education. The rest are diverted toward the blue collar preparation skills. Math and communication skills are encouraged, along with an introduction to the crafts. The schooling prepares both groups for a productive and successful life. The "factory worker" end of society is attended instead of just relying on the dregs of those not able to cut it from the academic end of society to fill the blue collar jobs.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 01/18/10 - 05:23 am
0
0
It's all about attitude and

It's all about attitude and for too long our government has used our education system as the worst kind of social engineering tool. Instead of trying to produce a particular philosophical mindset, the goal ought to be more success oriented. Teaching how to achieve, and through achievement, how to gain self confidence. Teaching how to set goals and how to prepare to reach these goals is at least as important as providing the tools necessary in life. Parental involvement is the only way to overcome the mess our government schools are in. I don't see any improvement in sight since it would involve personal responsibility and too much of our society will have none of that. Some positive changes will be made in the worst of our school systems by the efforts of people like Dr Bedden, but for the most part, government schools will continue to pump out Dem voters. Not a very lofty goal for a once great country.

ispy4u
0
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ispy4u 01/18/10 - 07:33 am
0
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" So it is written, so it is

" So it is written, so it is true".

bettyboop
8
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bettyboop 01/18/10 - 08:08 am
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well said

well said johnson..........................................

RushLimbuttbubba
0
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RushLimbuttbubba 01/18/10 - 09:06 am
0
0
So jcliff...You went to

So jcliff...You went to school in Germany?

Rhetor
1160
Points
Rhetor 01/18/10 - 09:08 am
0
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Indeed, No Child Left Behind

Indeed, No Child Left Behind may have some merit, but it is an unwarranted federal intrusion. BTW, johnstoncliff, if you'd seen how conservative the social studies program is in southern schools, you wouldn't worry about pumping out Dem voters. A truly informed voter, however, will not be enslaved to any one party.

corgimom
46720
Points
corgimom 01/18/10 - 09:22 am
0
0
It's all about self-control.

It's all about self-control. A child who is out of control can't learn. Self-control is one of the greatest gifts you can teach your child- without it, they will lead chaotic lives.

tinytuna
74
Points
tinytuna 01/18/10 - 10:06 am
0
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The majority of Sp. Ed.

The majority of Sp. Ed. students are put in classes with everyone else. This is called inclusion. Students with 2nd grade reading levels are passing the 8th grade reading section of the CRCT. Students with 3rd grade math levels are passing the 8th grade math section of the CRCT. Administrators will do anything to get the scores they need. If people only knew some of the things that actually happen.

mommato2
25
Points
mommato2 01/18/10 - 10:24 am
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I think that NCLB is a good

I think that NCLB is a good idea in some ways, but it's not possible. If we are passing students on up to the next grade b/c of the NCLB act and not b/c they know how to read at that level, or do math, etc., in the long run, we are leaving them behind. There are way too many students at ASU with me right now that do not know the difference b/c "your" and "you're", or "there", "their", or "they're", and it's frustrating to know that something that is taught in 5th or 6th grade isn't transferring to college. It's unreal how many comments I read on AC sometimes, where grown folks can use a lesson in grammar and other English skills. So in the long run, we are leaving them behind...it should be revised or done away with unless it can be proven to be successful.

cleanup
0
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cleanup 01/18/10 - 10:43 am
0
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You didn't interview any

You didn't interview any educators, only educrats.

jamesj
0
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jamesj 01/18/10 - 11:01 am
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mommato2 you are so right

mommato2 you are so right it's almost scary.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/18/10 - 01:28 pm
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Thanks George W. Bush & Ted

Thanks George W. Bush & Ted Kennedy. Increasing federal governments intrusion into our lives yet again.

Little Lamb
53077
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Little Lamb 01/18/10 - 01:46 pm
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Did you notice Dana Bedden's

Did you notice Dana Bedden's whining in the above article about his school system not making AYP? The purpose of No Child Left Behind is to IDENTIFY poorly performing schools. It looks like No Child Left Behind is working just fine.

whatthefudgebrownies
0
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whatthefudgebrownies 01/18/10 - 02:37 pm
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when will an education reform

when will an education reform take place that will hold parents responsible for some of their child's education?? yes, school systems, teachers and principals should be accountable, but now the system is so concerned with making ayp and making sure that there are children in the seats so that the school doesn't miss out on making ayp due to attendance, teachers are left to deal with any and every type of disrespect you can imagine...and they simply have to "deal with it".....there has to be a better way...to be accountable, yet not have to deal with unruly children and uninvolved parents.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/18/10 - 03:02 pm
0
0
good suggestion whatthe but

good suggestion whatthe but most parents these days hardly hold themselves responsible for their own actions, let alone those of their children.

LadyCisback
4
Points
LadyCisback 01/18/10 - 03:16 pm
0
0
Chillen.. so true!!

Chillen.. so true!!

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 01/18/10 - 04:25 pm
0
0
Limbutt, no, I didn't go to

Limbutt, no, I didn't go to school in Germany. I also haven't been to the moon, but I know what phase it's in.

workingmom
0
Points
workingmom 01/18/10 - 05:32 pm
0
0
Chillen, I don't think "most"

Chillen, I don't think "most" parents are that way; however, there are some - too many, in fact. I'm not sure what the answer is but the schools need to take back the ability to discipline unruly students without threat from lawsuits. If parents cannot teach their children how to follow rules, then they should be held accountable if/when their children disrupt the class and rob other students of their right to learn. Perhaps they should start charging the parents a fee per hour when teachers/administrators have to stop what they do to deal with the child. Just a thought, considering the lack of funds in education today.

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 01/19/10 - 03:21 pm
0
0
You ARE allowed to discipline

You ARE allowed to discipline students. You are just not allowed to strike them, because that is not discipline, it is corporal punishment.

lifelongresidient
1
Points
lifelongresidient 01/19/10 - 04:04 pm
0
0
poor dr. bedden, now whining

poor dr. bedden, now whining about not making ayp...making ayp would be a lot easier if they would close some unnecessary schools, expell all disruptive, disrepectful, violent and students there for anything other than education(schools are not a babysitting service nor to handle personal problems, that's what dss and the parent(s) are for), put the emphasis BACK ON EDUCATION and mandate parental involvement making ayp, passing the crct and graduation rates would improve dramatically. if there isn't enuff money then why not suspend all extra-curricular activities until things get better

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