August 10, 2007

No Child labels schools unfairly, administrators say

As NCLB reauthorization approaches expect to see a lot more thinly veiled articles like this one from the San Diego Union Tribune trying to water down NCLB.

The premise is given in the lede:

The federal accountability system for public schools unfairly labels many achieving schools as failures, regional school leaders said yesterday.

Let's see if the "reporter" has marshaled any facts to support the premise that NCLB is unfairly labeling "many achieving schools as failures." Notice the careful., i.e., misleading wording.

First, we get the obligatory grudging acceptance from educators:

“We understand (No Child left Behind) is here to stay, but it needs to be fixed in order to be reauthorized,” said Kelli Moors, board president for the Carlsbad Unified School District.

They tried for six years to get NCLB repealed. That failed due to overwhelming public support. Their new tactic is attempt a flanking maneuver during reauthorization to water down the law so they can go back to miseducating kids without the pernicious spotlight of shame shining on them.

Next, we get a rhetorical alley oop from the reporter who cites misleading facts:

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that all students achieve the same minimum pass rates on state academic exams. By 2014, all students must reach at least “proficient” levels of performance on state exams.
By 2014 "all" students are not required to reach the "proficient level. Presently 1% are permitted to talk an alternate assessment that is in accordance with their needs. Severely retarded students do not have to pass the same test given to regular-ed students.

Then we get the only evidence cited to support the premise:

Many public school administrators, board members and teachers say the federal system, unlike the state accountability system in California, fails to recognize school progress over time. No Child Left Behind, they say, unfairly labels many schools as failures – no matter how much they are improving from year to year, or how close they are to meeting federal benchmarks.

NCLB does in fact recognize progress. NCLB contains a Safe Harbor provision that permits a school that is, in fact, failing to avoid the "failing label" if it reduces its percentage of students not meeting standards by 10% of the previous year's percentage.

I fail to see how this is unfair. If you are not meeting your state's pass rate and aren't improving sufficiently to fall within the safe harbor, you are failing regardless if you miss that mark by 30% or 0.01%. This isn't horseshoes or hand grenades. Near misses don't count.

So to sum up: NCLB does, in fact, recognize "school progress over time."

Check out this Ed Sector report for the full story. In fact, you'll want to bookmark that report for ready reference because you're going to be seeing a lot more articles like this one in which the reporter doesn't understand the provisions of NCLB relating to Adequate Yearly Progress and educators are all too willing to bamboozle him/her to further their agenda.

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