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Under federal law, most schools would fail

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Local school boards join resolution calling for changes to No Child Left Behind Act

By April Wright, Reporter

By 2014, the federal No Child Left Behind Act will require that all schools across the United States must have a 100 percent pass rate on achievement tests.
Local school boards this week joined a statewide effort to set more realistic goals.
School boards in Galax, Grayson County and Carroll County all signed a resolution at their meetings this week, saying that the No Child Left Behind Act law is flawed and in need of improvement, and the current accountability requirements will result in more than three quarters of America’s public schools being labeled as “failing.”
The “Regulatory Relief for America’s Schools” resolution from the Virginia Association of School Superintendents supports the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind Act, which it says is more than three years overdue.
“That means that most schools will be seen as underachieving,” Galax Superintendent Bill Sturgill told the Galax School Board on Tuesday. “The concern is the 100 percent pass rate on any specific test, and that’s the driving concern for this resolution. It’s not about meeting the 80 or 90 percent pass rates on SOLs [Standards of Learning tests], but about being held accountable for a 100 percent pass rate.”
Schools that do not achieve that benchmark will be seen as not meeting academic standards, Sturgill said.
Based on last year’s scores, only 17 out of 132 school divisions in the state made Adequate Yearly Progress. Although the Galax school division had achieved that in the past, the system did not reach that goal this year.
Sturgill noted that Galax schools have always had success in pass rates, making at least 80 and 90 percent in most areas.
There’s more at stake than a school system’s reputation. Underperforming schools are in jeopardy of not qualifying for state and federal funding.
Sturgill hopes that reauthorization of No Child Left Behind will create realistic goals for school systems.
“The act has been a benefit to most schools and has improved quality,” said Sturgill, but the goals are not obtainable. He would like to see a student-growth model that measures the performance of students throughout the year.
“These tests [like the SOLs] show how a student performed on a given day,” said Sturgill. However, the scores don’t take into account how much a student has improved throughout the year.
“Such a drastic misrepresentation of the of the accomplishments of America’s public schools does more harm than good and undermines the hard work of millions of educators and students across the nation every day,” the resolution says. “In facing the challenge of implementing these complex regulations, school districts across the nation struggle with the rigidity of regulation and are forced to spend resources, both financial and human, on compliance rather than teaching and learning.”
The resolution says that it is unlikely that Congress will be able to complete full reauthorization before the 2011-2012 school year and alleviate the pressure from both the current law and its related regulations.
However, the resolution says that those who signed it “support the reauthorization of the outdated [No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education] legislation.”
It urges immediate regulatory relief from the 2011-2012 school year, and any efforts to modify regulations and alleviate pressure on the nation’s schools. It urges the Department of Education to exercise its regulatory authority to relieve school districts from constraints of current statutes, keeping schools from being “held hostage” while Congress moves forward with complete reauthorization.
The resolution “requests that this relief be straight regulatory relief, not waivers... and specifically supports suspension of additional sanctions under current AYP requirements, effective for the 2011-2012 school year. Schools currently facing sanctions would remain frozen; no new schools would be labeled as ‘In Need of Improvement’ or subject to new or additional sanctions.”
“We want to present a common voice that it’s time for our politicians to reauthorize” the No Child Left Behind Act, said Sturgill. If held to the standard of a 100 percent passing rate, “75 percent of schools would be seen as not performing. That’s discouraging and not accurate.”