01/08/08 — Officials take aim at NCLB policies

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Officials take aim at NCLB policies

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 8, 2008 2:03 PM

The Board of Education Monday night voted in favor of a resolution to change No Child Left Behind policies.

The federal education legislation is up for reauthorization, Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability, told the board.

"The National School Board Association has gathered recommendations from school boards across the country," he said. "It's basically good common sense recommendations to make the law function better."

The legislation was signed into law in 2002 by President Bush. Its intent was to raise student achievement, close the achievement gap and ensure each child has a highly qualified teacher.

While in principle the school board supports those goals, in the five years since the law was enacted, there have been numerous problems, McFadden said.

"We test students multiple times. If they don't make achievement levels 3 or 4, we'll test them again," he said. Students then are assigned to attend a summer school remediation program, then are tested again.

"Right now, we go by that first test, (and are) not allowed to use that improved score," he noted.

The proposed resolution would allow school districts to use the highest score attained, he said.

No Child Left Behind's blanket "pass or fail" approach -- if even one subgroup does not pass the annual testing, the entire school fails -- has also been a bone of contention for many.

Not only does it hamper a school's progress, officials have said, but it causes districts to scramble to accommodate students who, according to the legislation, must be allowed to transfer to another "passing" school.

Changes to the legislation, McFadden said, "would allow those in the subgroup that fails to transfer and not every student" in the school.

H.R. 648, the "No Child Left Behind Improvement Act of 2007" legislation was introduced in January by Arkansas Representative Don Young. It is expected to be discussed next month in Washington, D.C. Board member Shirley Sims said she plans to attend, with a copy of the resolution in hand.

McFadden said although it is doubtful that Congress will act upon the proposal prior to the election, the resolution is still "a step in the right direction."

"There's a statement in (there) that says how we want that to change from the existing policy," Ms. Sims said. "What we want to do regardless ... at least we'll have our input. As soon as the new administration is seated, that information will be there."

The resolution also states that the board will seek the support of local leaders as well as the N.C. General Assembly, encouraging Representatives Walter B. Jones and G.K. Butterfield to become co-sponsors.