It's the day after Labor Day, traditionally a day that marks the end of summer and when kids go back to school. This morning, President Obama spoke to students about taking responsibility for their own learning. The full text of his speech is here.
As well, the September issue of "State Legislatures", the publication of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), zooms in on the controversial No Child Left Behind Act and what a new version of the legislation might look like. The full article is here.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is considered the most sweeping federal authority over state and local school boards in our country's history. The accountability provisions are considered the most problematic. Key requirements of the act are currently up for reauthorization, and they include:
*Testing all students in grades three through eight, and every year once in high school.
*Requiring schools receiving federal funds for disadvantaged students and schools with a certain percentage of low-income students to make progress in test scores.
*Putting any school failing to make "adequate yearly progess" on a "failing schools list", giving parents the option of sending their children to better peforming schools in the same district.
The criticism of such requirements is that they are unrealistic and impose punishments on schools failing to meet the standard. In addition, educators point to a "one size fits all" initiative imposed upon a diverse population.
It's been seven years since the passage of the NCLB Act; President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2002. While there is consensus that NCLB shines a light upon areas that need help - schools serving minority and poverty districts for example - there is also agreement that it's not working the way it should.
If and when the law is reauthorized, there are essentially two main concerns lawmakers around the country are raising:
*Control. States want more control, or at least more input, than they do now.
*Lack of resources. Schools don't have the resources to accomplish the mandated goals. If federal funds are reduced or elminated, some states have passed laws enabling them to opt out of the federal program.
How are we doing in Hawaii? The latest information can be found in a July 2009 news release on the subject from the Department of Education.
From Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto (at right):
“Over the past eight years, we have celebrated the steady gains made by students in reading and math. The progress made by our schools is evidence that student achievement is improving.
However, fulfilling the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act continues to be an uphill battle for a majority of schools.”
“While today’s results only serve as one measure of how a school is performing, the need to close the achievement gap in Hawaii’s public schools still exists. We will break through the Adequate Yearly Progress ‘glass ceiling’ by implementing additional interventions tied to results, raising educational standards, demanding accountability, and redesigning our school day and instructional delivery system.“The truest measure of our efforts will be that our students successfully perform in the 21st century global economy because we delivered the high quality education they deserved.”
The results from the 2009 Hawaii State Assessment, used to determine a school's status under No Child Left Behind, are summarized in the news release with links to the full report.