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NCLB Turns Two Tomorrow
Tomorrow, Jan. 8, 2004, is the two-year anniversary of the enactment of the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act championed by President Bush. Built on the principles of accountability for results, local control and flexibility, new options for parents, and an emphasis on scientifically proven teaching methods, the law is already having a positive impact in schools across the country. Among the law's many supporters, more than one hundred African American and Hispanic superintendents have recently signed a letter to Congress voicing their strong support for the law's accountability provisions.
As we head toward this important milestone, following are some key points to keep in mind:
While still in the early stages, No Child Left Behind is already having a positive impact in schools across the country. Some examples include:
The Philadelphia Inquirer has described how Pennsylvania schools are now receiving results from state exams earlier and in a more effective format, allowing them to identify elementary school students who might need extra help and determine exactly what type of assistance students need.
In New Mexico, The Associated Press reported that four schools primarily serving Native American students have gone from the "lowest of the low" to now meeting standards.
The Des Moines Register reported how two elementary schools in Muscatine, Iowa, were identified by the state for improvement, changed the way they taught reading and math, and now are meeting state standards.
In California, The San Francisco Chronicle catalogued how the "highly qualified" teacher provisions of No Child Left Behind helped the principal at Chavez Middle School in Hayward recruit "by far the best staff I've ever had."
The Denver Post reported that, prompted by No Child Left Behind, teachers and parents are working to close the achievement gap by going door to door to deliver school supplies and reaching out to Latino moms and dads.
The St. Albans Messenger in Vermont reported that the state is funneling a grant from the No Child Left Behind Reading First program to "districts that demonstrate intense need, as defined by high poverty and low student achievement in early reading, and a readiness for change."
Evansville Elementary School in Wyoming was identified for improvement, implemented better reading and math programs, and is now meeting state standards. The Casper Star-Tribune described the atmosphere at the school this way: "The thrill of success is infectious."
Every state is unique, and No Child Left Behind provides state and local leaders with unprecedented flexibility as they implement the law.
For the first time in history, every single state has developed its own unique accountability plan covering every child in every public school. These state accountability systems are built on two foundations - standards and assessments. These critical ingredients are developed, designed, and determined by states. States have always had and continue to have at their discretion the determination of their content and achievement standards and the design of their assessments.
The most critical education decisions continue to be made at the local or state level. These include deciding what children should learn and when they should learn it, choosing a curriculum, and hiring teachers and principals.
States and local school districts can transfer up to 50 percent of the funding they receive for Teacher Quality, Educational Technology, Innovative Programs, and Safe and Drug-Free Schools, to any one of these programs or to Title I. This ability to transfer federal funds among certain accounts is new under No Child Left Behind and no "permission" is required before transferring funds.
Because of the proven correlation between teacher quality and student academic achievement, No Child Left Behind requires states to place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year. Each state is responsible for developing its own definition of "highly qualified" and each state has the flexibility to develop its own system to measure teacher qualifications. States are also encouraged to be innovative in finding ways to improve teacher quality, including alternative certification, merit pay, and bonuses for teachers in high-need subject areas like math and science.
As part of the flexibility of No Child Left Behind, states can provide students with disabilities with accommodations such as increased time or the use of assistive technology to ensure that their unique needs are taken into account as they participate with their peers in the assessment process. The key is that they are challenged to meet the same grade level standards as their peers. As for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, a No Child Left Behind regulation allows schools and school districts the flexibility to measure these students' progress based on alternate achievement standards.
States and local school districts also have the opportunity to apply for demonstration projects providing even more flexibility in how federal resources are used.
Because of the reforms implemented by No Child Left Behind, President Bush and Congress are now investing more in education than at any point in history.
Under the omnibus appropriations bill already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and awaiting action in the U.S. Senate, total spending on No Child Left Behind programs will have increased 41 percent since the President took office. Specifically, Title I funding, targeted to low-income students, will have gone up 41 percent and funding to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals will have gone up 39 percent.
If you combine local, state, and federal spending, the United States now spends more on elementary and secondary education than it does on national defense.
Far from not having enough funding to implement the law, some states have actually sent federal education funds back to the U.S. Treasury.
About Extra Credit
NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.
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