NCLB rewrite

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's been five years since the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect. As planned, the federal effort to impose higher standards and more accountability is due for a rewrite this year. Lawmakers say the aim will be to make commonsense changes that reflect some of the real-world issues schools have encountered in complying with the law.

One of those issues is how testing of special-needs students under NCLB-mandated achievement reviews affects overall scores for entire schools -- in some cases putting those schools in line for harsh remedies. Common sense says that NCLB's goal of having 100 percent of students reading and doing math on grade level by 2014 is impossible without making allowances for students whose needs prevent them from being tested without assistance.

Another area that should be reviewed is how states administer NCLB-related tests. In Missouri, there have been complaints from educators and parents alike that too much effort is going into "teaching the test" while test results have no impact on a student's educational advancement. To that end, there have been proposals to establish statewide final exams for Missouri's high school students. The Missouri State Board of Education agreed to such a plan last week.

Currently, a school's composite score is what determines how well a school is complying with NCLB goals. At a minimum, it seems individual test scores of both elementary and high school students should become a part of a student's permanent record, which might promote individual efforts to do well in addition to the emphasis schools put on their composite scores.

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