NCLB: First graders will be left behind-PART I

From: David H Kirshner (
Date: Thu Jan 27 2005 - 18:26:14 PST

Some somber reading.


From Substance, September-December, 2004, p. 24,20.21. Article was
typed from the original article in Substance and proof read.
Today's first graders: The Children No Child Left Behind will Leave Behind

By Ken Goodman

[Kenneth S. Goodman, one of the world's foremost authorities on how
children learn to read, is Professor Emeritus, Language, Reading and
Culture, University of Arizona. This article was sent to Substance
October 18, 2004. ]

Parents of children starting first grade this year may not be ready
for what the No Child Left Behind law has in store for their children
over the next ten years. Beginning first graders are or will shortly
be six years old.

This federal law reaches its full effects in 2014 when these children
become 16, the age in most states when students can legally leave
school. During those years under NCLB their scores on a single test
will dominate their school experience. Under NCLB the federal
government requires:

* Every state must test all pupils in all schools in reading and math
and starting in 2007-8 in science. The state must set a proficiency
level for the test.
* Each school must "disaggregate" pupils into a number of sub-groups.
Criteria include race, ethnic group, income level, second language
learners and various categories of special education. Pupils maybe in
more than one group, for example, Black, Hispanic and poor.
* 95% of the pupils in each group must take the test or the school is
labeled failing
* Every sub-group of pupils is expected to make "Adequate Yearly
Progress" each year or the school is failing.
* If a local school district has one failing school it is labeled a
failing district.
* In the first year at least 20% of each group must have scores at or
above the proficiency score for the school to meet the requirement of
adequate yearly progress.
* Each state must set successively higher requirements each year for
the percent of each group scoring proficient to meet AYP
* And in 2014, when this year's first graders are legally able to
leave school in most states, 100% of students in all groups must
score at the proficient level in reading, math and science on an
approved test. In Lake Wobegone, Garrison Keillor's mythical
Minnesota town, all the children are above average. Under NCLB, by
2014 all children must be scoring proficient, a term which now
applies to the top 20% of all those taking the test. Even those most
severely disabled must miraculously achieve this unreachable score.

Mandated Punishments under NCLB

NCLB is a highly punitive law. It provides for severe punishments for
failing schools, school districts and even states.

School punishments. If a school is failing for more than two years
the school district is: required to permit parents to request
transfer of their children to a non-failing school in the district at
district expense. Parents of kids in failing schools may also request
the school district to provide private tutoring at district expense.
If the school continues to fail AYP, drastic measures are required
including reopening as a public charter school; replacing all or most
of the staff (which may include the principal); making a contract for
operation of the public school by a "public or private entity" or
takeover by the state.

School District Punishments

States are also required to punish failing school districts under
NCLB. The law requires:

(1) deferring programmatic funds or reducing administrative funds;
(2) instituting and fully implementing a new curriculum, including
providing appropriate professional development

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