Apparently some of the dissatisfaction that has appeared relating to the severe strain that No Child Left Behind legislation has created in our school system is finally getting some attention from those in Congress who have been blindly praising this massive, under-funded federal intrusion into public education. Education had clearly been in the past a "reserved area" of state regulation and administration, but, in fact, it has become another contradiction of an administration that touts less federal government intrusion and regulation. While educators have no argument with the concept of no child left behind, the legislation itself has proven to be confusing and awkward in its implementation.
On a recent visit to Washington, members of a delegation from Montgomery County, NC asked NC 8th District Congressman Robin Hayes about this legislation. While Rep. Hayes praised NCLB, he was unsure about the number of "sub-categories" each school might have in Montgomery County or any other system. (Note: All students in NCLB are placed in subcategories based on race, gender, economics, disabilities, etc. Students can be in multiple classifications, which would affect more than one subcategory. If any one of these subcategories fails to show "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP), then such schools are eventually declared "failing" schools. Once this point is reached under NCLB, the "failing" school system is required to offer free transportation to the school of their choice to all students, even those that might not fall into a failing subcategory.)
Rep. Hayes was unsure of the answers to this field of inquiry and advised that the group pose the questions instead to his education specialist. Once questioned, this specialist answered, "4-5 subcategories on average per school." This answer simply points out the misinformation that many have on NCLB as there are in fact in Montgomery County anywhere from a minimum of 17 to a maximum of 29 subcategories.
The more subcategories, the more complicated is the approach to NCLB as well as the increase in the chances of having a subcategory that will not meet AYP. This in fact happened in Montgomery County. Page Street School (grades 3-5) failed to meet AYP in just one of their 17 categories and was declared a "failed school." As the "feeder" school to Page Street School, Troy Elementary School (grades K-2) also took on the label of a failing school according to NCLB.
A final analysis shows that only 13 students at the Page Street School made the difference between the school's achieving AYP or not. Page Street's overall score on the NC End of Grade (EOG) testing was an outstanding 84 percent, making it a "School of Distinction" by state standards and a failing school by the standards of NCLB.
Larry Kissell, a candidate for the 8th District Seat and a teacher in the Montgomery County School District, points out, "It's tough on the morale of the two schools involved to be labeled 'failing' on one hand because of 13 students in one subgroup and yet have made the effort to earn the status of 'School of Distinction' in a far greater test of their overall accomplishments. While the school and system certainly would not want to leave those particular students behind, would it not make more sense to say that particular subgroup failed? To offer just those particular families the option of transferring? It just seems like every time this administration creates major legislation, it ends up with more government, more intrusion, more paperwork, and not enough understanding of what it has created. NCLB compares to the Senior Prescription program, befuddling not only our senior citizens, but also seemingly most who are involved with this behemoth. $700 billion? 39-79 options to choose from (the number varying depending on the source to whom one listens)? Yet, we still cannot count on getting a flu shot for the second year in a row."
Maybe Congress can rectify this devil in the details of No Child Left Behind. Maybe they can actually fund the program sufficiently, but with record deficits, how is this even possible? Maybe they simply want to make sure they can answer the questions this time around; but, with sessions closed to the press, the general public will not know.