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

Monday, April 21, 2008

No Let Up in the NCLB Testocracy

What makes special education students special, besides dyslexia, emotional problems, learning disabilities, autism, neurological disorders? These different manifestations of specialness are irrelevant when it comes to NCLB test score demands--which are the same as for everyone else. It is what turns expecatations for all into failure for all.

This story is from California, but it is the same all across America:
Spring testing has arrived for area students, and a lot is riding on how well they perform — particularly for educators in Hayward and San Lorenzo.

The two are "program improvement" districts, meaning their students as a whole have failed to meet federal and state testing requirements that continue to rise. If the trend continues, the districts could face severe sanctions.

"The stakes are getting higher," said Katarin Jurich, director of assessment for San Lorenzo schools. "And the floor underneath us is cracking."

San Lorenzo Unified is one of three East Bay districts that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is keeping tabs on under a reform plan he announced earlier this year. The district, along with Oakland and Berkeley schools, has failed to meet all goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for five years in a row.

Statewide, 97 districts are in the same boat.

Last year, San Lorenzo students met all but one of the 42 testing requirements set forth by NCLB. Special-education students as a whole failed to meet federal benchmarks in standardized testing, which kept the district from being in the clear of any sanctions.Meanwhile, if Hayward Unified fails yet again to meet test-score benchmarks, it will move into year three of program improvement, meaning it could face even more penalties from the state.

. . . .

Some parents . . . said pressures to perform well in standardized testing is ruining classrooms.

"Teachers are so worried about the tests that they're not really able to teach the kids," said Robert Stranahan, a parent at Lorenzo Manor Elementary in San Lorenzo. "Kids in their developmental years shouldn't have to worry about tests. Let them grow and get used to going to school first. It's just sad."

Some educators also argue that NCLB's goal of getting all students up to proficient levels by 2013 sets schools and districts up for failure.

"No one student is the same, and they each learn and grow at different levels," Jurich said. "I guess if we fail again we'll go to purgatory. And there'll be plenty of company with us."


  1. I taught special ed for four years at the high school level. I know that getting most of these kids over the bar is impossible. And that is why it is one of the benchmarks of NCLB. We are all set up to fail, period. That is the genius of the Bush plan to destroy public education! But nobody seems to talk about that! Drives me crazy!!!

  2. I taught special education for three years at the elementary level. There is a reason kids are qualified for special education. By definition, they are performing below benchmark. While the intent of NCLB was to make sure educators don't let these kids off the hook, the result has been to make principals shy away from qualifying kids who really need services. At my former school, administration did everything possible to keep the sped numbers under 25. It is a sad day when they start putting more importance on the numbers than on what kids need!