KC Star – Teachers and parents bash standards

Posted on Tue, Apr. 10, 2007

Teachers and parents bash standards
Lawmaker gets many responses when he asks how No Child Left Behind can be improved.
By MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM
The Kansas City Star

Teachers and parents fed up with the mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act gave Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore an earful during a listening tour last week.

Parents said the law’s emphasis on proficiency rather than excellence was leaving gifted children behind and draining the fun from learning.

Teachers said the focus on math and reading took time away from subjects such as social studies and created children who were good at taking tests but who were losing ground in critical-thinking skills and creativity.

Administrators fumed that promised funding had not kept pace with its mandates.

Signed into law in 2002, No Child Left Behind calls for all children to be proficient in math and reading by 2014 and mandates tests in both subjects every year from third to eighth grade and once in high school. Beyond that, it requires schools to pay particular attention to students whose academic progress often lags — ethnic minorities, those in special education and those who are learning English — or face sanctions.

With the law up for reauthorization this year, politicians are asking their constituents how it should be changed.

Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, met behind closed doors with school administrators in a series of meetings across the state in February. Moore ’s listening tour drew scores of people to four meetings.

Most at the forums praised the law’s intent, though many want to see changes.

“I support the effort for No Child Left Behind because it makes us push those students,” said LaDawndra Rob bs, who teaches at M.E. Pearson Elementary in Kansas City , Kan. “We don’t want to do away with it or even make it easier. I think it needs to be attainable.”

Moore, who voted for the law, said he did so after talking to school officials who said they were concerned about some provisions but welcomed the extra money.

However, he said, the federal government has not followed through with the funding.

“Congress and the president are $55 billion short of full funding since it was implemented,” he said.

John Rios, a Kansas City , Kan. , assistant superintendent, said the money was essential.

“They want No Child Left Behind, fork it up,” he said at the community forum in Kansas City , Kan. “What’s the movie? Show me the money, and we’ll show you the results.”

Others at the Kansas City , Kan. , forum focused on the inequities between wealthy schools and poorer counterparts.

LeAnn Jones teaches in the Shawnee Mission district, but her children attend school in Bonner Springs.

“We need to make sure that if you’re teaching reading in one school, it should be the same way in another school,” she said. “You should have the same kind of resources.”

Kansas Teacher of the Year Josh Anderson told a Shawnee audience that he typically sacrificed nine weeks of classroom instruction to prepare his Olathe Northwest High School students for the annual Kansas reading tests. He worried that he was trading an enriched education for academic proficiency.

“In our quest to pass these tests,” Anderson said, “we are producing a nation full of empty children with outstanding test scores.”

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Making it better
Panelists at Rep. Dennis Moore’s listening tour suggested these changes for No Child Left Behind:

•Allow flexibility in determining how a school makes “adequate yearly progress,” as defined by the law. Some proposed a model that looks at gains made by individual students from year to year, rather than fixed targets by grade levels.

•Give English Language Learners more time to grasp the language before making them take grade-level reading tests with peers who are native-born English speakers.

•Allow more flexibility in determining how special education students are tested.

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