With No Child Left Behind Overhaul Stalled, More Schools ‘Failing’

Jul 27, 2011 by

WASHINGTON — By the standards of the decade-old No Child Left Behind law, almost 87 percent of New Mexico’s schools aren’t making ”




“I don’t believe 87 percent of our schools are failing our kids,” Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s education secretary, told The Huffington Post, though she stressed that they still need improvement. “It’s not an accurate portrayal. We need a clear picture of who’s making progress and who’s not.”

As states tally their standardized test scores and graduation rates this summer, they are feeling the squeeze of the 2001 No Child Left Behind law, which Congress has failed to revamp since it came up for reauthorization in 2007.

In order to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) under the law, schools must satisfy ever-increasing performance targets set by states. AYP measures the percentage of students making certain target scores on standardized tests in reading and math and graduation rates — regardless of students’ growth. For example, if a student grows two grade levels during a school year but is still below the NCLB-set bar, his scores count against the school’s AYP rating.

Under NCLB, schools that fail to make AYP for two years in a row in the same category, such as graduation rate, are deemed “Needs Improvement.” These schools face consequences, such as requiring supplemental education or giving students the option to transfer into another AYP-making public school or charter school. Schools that fail to make AYP for longer periods of time can face restructuring interventions that involve staff turnover.

Built into NCLB is the requirement that all students be proficient across subjects by 2014, a goal that has universally been called utopian. Because Congress has failed to address the law since it came up for reauthorization in 2007, its mandated targets have continued to increase, creating a slow-moving time bomb for schools. This March, Duncan projected that 82 percent of schools would be deemed as failing by next year.

“Everyone knew this day was coming, and now it is upon us, and we need to have an open, honest debate about the consequences of a law that will label a majority of our schools as failing,” Justin Hamilton, press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, said in an email.

Skandera said she, too, was not surprised by the inevitable.

“What we’re missing under the law is the ability to capture progress and acknowledge where we’re seeing change and where we’re not,” Skandera said. “Our school grading should be based not only on grade level but also on the progress made by all students.”

Other states are also coming to terms with exactly what an unchanged NCLB will mean for students and teachers in the upcoming school year.

In Georgia, 63.2 percent of schools made AYP in 2011, down from 71 percent in 2010. Standards increased in all four measured categories, which include three standardized tests and overall graduation rate. (The state numbers exclude Atlanta, which may have its funding revoked because of a cheating scandal there.) In some districts, like Forsyth County, while some scores increased, fewer schools made the measure.

Forsyth Central High School did not make AYP because of poor performance on English exams among the Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged subgroups. But, according to Patch:

Forsyth Central High also increased its graduation rate this year to 87.7 percent (a 2.7 percent jump from the previous year and the highest in the school’s history). The school also posted an 11 percent increase in the number of Economically Disadvantaged students that graduated this year.

While states grapple with higher targets and more of their schools labeled ‘underperforming,’ Congress is in a standoff over how to proceed with NCLB reform. The lag prompted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to propose a “Plan B” to give states waiverson meeting NCLB-mandated targets in exchange for implementing certain education reforms of his choice.

via With No Child Left Behind Overhaul Stalled, More Schools ‘Failing’.

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