NCLB: First graders will be left behind-PART II

From: David H Kirshner (
Date: Thu Jan 27 2005 - 21:36:19 PST

For those interested, here is Part II.

It's odd how rarely carefully thought through, realistic scenario of devastation gets articulated in the media. in Iraq, where the most likely scenarios are tearfully frightening, only the optimistic hopes of the US administration get air time.


From Substance, September-December, 2004, p. 24,20.21. Article was
typed from the original article in Substance.
Since each state selects a test and sets the definition of what
constitutes proficiency, numbers of failing schools vary widely from
state to state - so widely that failing means very different things
in different states. Last year Alabama reported 4.6 % of their public
schools failed to make AYP. But next door in Florida 87.1 % failed.
Can that really mean that Alabama schools are far better than Florida
schools? This year Indiana had 4.1 % of schools failing for 2 years
and the District of Columbia had 43.6 %. If a school is failing for
two years it is subject to "corrective action."

The law also classifies any school district as failing if one school
in it is failing. In Idaho 11.3% of schools have failed for two years
but 38.3 % of Idaho's school districts are failing. Nationally, this
year almost 20,000 schools will be labeled failing one year and
almost 10,000 will be failing for two or more years and are subject
to penalties.

But NCLB is like a mortgage with a balloon payment. States can use an
easy test or hard one. They can slow down the impact of NCLB or speed
it up. But by 2014, in every state, all students in all sub groups
must be scoring at the proficient level.

This election year the federal monitors have been lenient a bit in
how much they pushed the states. But the pressure will be kept up on
states and local districts as these children progress through primary
grades. Because all children in every state must be tested in third
grade it will be to the advantage of schools to fail children in
second grade who are likely to pull down the test scores as third
graders. Each year the number of children who avoid failing a year
will drop so that by the time they reach middle school an alarming
number of pupils will have failed at least one year.

Predictably the toll will be heaviest among the poor, children of
color, immigrants and handicapped pupils. These face a double blow
under the law. They must all take the same test. And they must pass
at the same rate as all other groups in their schools. Studies show
that NCLB punishes diversity. A stated purpose of NCLB is to
eliminate the gaps between the haves and the have nots in our
schools, between poor and rich, between white and people of color.
But the means to that end is to require all students to pass the same
tests at the same high levels. And remember, 95% of a group must be
present for the test. If parents choose to keep their kids out of the
test or the school is hit by flu it fails.

Currently many award winning schools are failing because of a single
group such as the English language learners. Scarsborough, New York
is a failing district because 15% of parents kept their children home
on test days. Scottsdale, Arizona with six percent African American
pupils is failing because that one group missed adequate yearly
progress. A New Hampshire superintendent says that his schools have
105 ways to fail on NCLB. That means that pupils in the groups
schools have not served well are more likely to be left behind or
pushed out under NCLB. If a school, or school district, is labeled
failing because of one sub group, what will be the tensions that
develop between that group and the rest of the students?

By the tim

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