"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, February 19, 2007

Part of a commentary from Delaware Online:

. . . . Delaware had clear expectations of continuous improvement, with support and collaboration to make that happen. Under No Child Left Behind, the issue of improvement has been replaced by a time-certain deadline that school board members believe is impossible to achieve.

Sanctions -- such as placing a school "under watch" -- can actually hurt a school. Sanctions do not adequately take into account gains made. They are sometimes unfair when schools with particular demographics need not count small groups of high-risk students.

The No Child Left Behind labels can drive achieving students from a school. Many low-achieving students come from homes where parents are not involved in the schools or do not have good enough educations themselves to understand the options.

There are factors that affect the education of children that cannot be addressed appropriately within the current structure and finances of public schools. Under the specifications of NCLB, special education is one of the most critical. While schools have made some significant advances in this area, it remains one of the most difficult to conquer as student needs change.

Growing numbers of families move to Delaware to enroll children in our schools for the exceptional special-education services they provide.

School board members across this state are committed to providing for all children to the best of our ability. Our issue is an "absolute" percentage of special-education students allowed to be exempted from the standard tests when our programs are attracting more students with exceptional needs.

The ranking of an entire school and district based not on ability to continuously improve but rather on a target number in every student category -- and sometimes on a single category -- is not productive.

Another significant issue some of our schools are facing is the growing number of students who do not speak English. Many of these children are entering our classrooms directly from countries where they got little or no education. Their parents also have had little or no education and do not speak our language.

After a year, these children must take the same tests as the children who have been in Delaware schools since kindergarten. While we have the ability to issue tests in other languages, it is often difficult to adjust for the different educational experiences of such children in a year.

It would be helpful in coming deliberations if all the education needs of non-English- speaking students could be addressed along with the language barrier.

Finally but most important, the mandates currently in NCLB are not adequately funded. The appropriations provided are not even close to the allocations defined as necessary in the federal law.

The stakes and their costs have increased for the State of Delaware and local school districts in the past five years, while the federal funding remains at fiscal 2005 levels. The results of this gap is that local money that could be used for programs appropriate to a school or district -- and for which the citizens passed referenda -- is being used to support federal law and regulations. . . .

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