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Report on "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB)

October 24, 2002

The U.S. Department of Education has been meeting with "stakeholders" in each state to brief them on the newest version of the federal education mandates.

The following is a report on one of those meetings with representatives from the Department.

Remember how state legislators insisted that their state's education restructuring plan was not a federal mandate? They were wrong. The federal Goals 2000/HR6 laws of 1994 put these mandates in place. NCLB expands them and tightens the screws. ("NCLB: Federal Goals 2005")

No Child Left Behind is a single, mammoth accountability system to the federal government that applies to all students, all teachers, all schools, all [independent?] school districts in all public schools (including charter and virtual schools) in all states. Ultimately, it also applies to all parents.

It is a massive grab federal power over education. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from becoming involved in education. (See the 10th amendment to the Bill of Rights.)

Under NCLB, each state must set a single level of achievement for all students in that state. The "outcome" of NCLB is to get all students to that one level of "proficiency," euphemistically referred to as a "high standard." All resources, time, attention and accountability is directed toward that one level of "proficiency " for all.

Governor Howard Dean of Vermont put it this way, "It's [NCLB] going to give us a huge incentive to dumb down the standards." He called NCLB "a terrible mistake."

Under this new federal law, each state must establish a statewide annual objective for getting ALL students to the "proficient" level within 12 years. This annual objective is called "Annual Yearly Progress," or AYP.

NCLB is a maze and a nightmare of testing requirements, the stated purpose being to equalize the achievement outcomes between non- and low-achievers and everyone else. Every objective for every student is the same -- "proficient."

NCLB requires sanctions against schools and districts whose students and various subgroups don't meet AYP on the assessments.

Every year, in every state, in every district, in every school, in every grade (3 - 8, and once in 9-12), an assessment must be administered to every student in: 1) reading, 2) math and, 3) science (later). The assessments must be approved by federal bureaucrats. State assessment results must be consistent with the federal NAEP test, administered by the federal government.(("The Design and Purpose of the NAEP")

(NAEP: National Assessment for Educational Progress, a biennial national sampling assessments in 4th, 8th and 12th grades which are, for the first time, required by federal law, No Child Left Behind.)

If the state is taking federal education money (Title I), all of their public schools must participate in state assessments. No state or school is exempt.

Results of these massive federal testing requirements will be reported by state, by district, by school and by "sub-group."

Subgroups are
-- all students
-- major racial and ethnic groups
-- English language learners
-- students with disabilities
-- economically disadvantaged students
-- migrants
-- gender

Each individual subgroup must meet or exceed Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) every year. "The target of the law is on the subgroups."

School or districts that fail to meet AYP for every subgroup for two years in a row face sanctions. Sanctions begin with some students opting out to other public schools, more timelines and plans for improvement, and ultimately, a dismantling of the school.

"We are not allowed to extend deadlines. Federal statute requires that the Secretary [U.S. Department of Education] withhold funds immediately. Our hands are completely tied by Congress."

95% of enrolled students in each subgroup must have taken the test. [Comment: parents may opt their students out of the test, regardless.] Students who don't participate are to be given a score of zero. In most states, the assessments are not graduation requirements. They are a "diagnostic" tool.

Schools are facing a oncoming nightmare. It will be costly. It will focus almost exclusively on low performers. Do you wonder where your education dollars are going? Massive amounts of state and federal money have been poured into Goals 2000 and School-to-Work restructuring and other federally conceived programs. Requirements of NCLB will multiply this drain on education resources.

In the words of Vermont's Governor Dean:

"What we've decided to do is take the first year's money and when we decide later on how much it's going to cost, we can decide whether to take the money for the second year." Dean asked superintendents to consider whether the state should forego an estimated $29 million in Title I money in order to opt out of the accompanying requirements.

As one very troubled teacher recently put it, "We send our tax money to Washington, then Washington feeds it back to us only if we do what we're told. Something is wrong here."

Other parts to come:
"State Assessments are not high standards"
"State Assessments and the federal curriculum"


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