Monday, May 09, 2005
Leaving Many Children Behind
The Bush Administration, and its allies in Congress, have consistently shortchanged NCLB by billions of dollars. For the upcoming 20042005 school year, this underfunding already will result in 7,000 school districts and 11 states actually losing significant funding for Title Ithe very program intended to raise the achievement of the nation's most disadvantaged students. The President's proposed budget for the 20052006 school year calls for $9.4 billion less than he and Congress agreed would be necessary to fund NCLB, including $7.1 billion less than the $20.5 billion promised for Title I. This shortfall will affect nearly every school district in America.As far as I can tell, NCLB does leave children behind. Not just any children: poor children, disabled children, the lower testing children, and others. NCLB seems to actually penalize schools for attempting to help these children. In Texas when Bush was Governor, they got a high success rate with the state version of NCLB. How? By forcing underachieving students to drop out so their test scores wouldn't count against the school. And they found a method of concealing the dropout rate. Some schools in the poorest areas had a zero dropout rate.
Does it really improve education for children? From The Problems with No Child Left Behind comes this bit:
All of this sound to me like children are being "left behind" at an alarming rate. And if my quote of "left behind" reminds you of a certain popular series of apocalyptic Rapture books, perhaps that is my intention.
Under NCLB, all children are required to reach academic proficiency, or acceptable academic levels established by each state. While states have defined minimum acceptable standards for regular students, they never envisioned that disabled children would also be able to attain those levels. But the NCLB law makes no exceptions---disabled children, which now make up 13% of all school kids, must pass the same tests as regular students.
The impact of this requirement will result in states needing to lower standards for all children because states are not allowed to have a different standard for disabled youngsters. Yet those lower standards will still be too high for most disabled kids. So the unintended consequence of a mistaken attempt to raise the bar will actually result of a lowering of that same minimum level of accomplishment for most students while being still too high for the learning disabled.
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