The following is an op-ed by Maricopa County (AZ) schools superintendent Sandra Dowling which recently ran in the Arizona Republic:
Some say the No Child Left Behind Act isn't working. They obviously have not talked to Melissa, a homeless child attending the Thomas J. Pappas School in Phoenix. Twelve-year-old Melissa (not her real name) lives in a substandard apartment with her mother, brother and sister. Her family once lived in shelters, family group homes and hotels. Her mother is trained as a nurse's aide, but is physically disabled and has chemical- and substance-abuse issues. Melissa's father abandoned the family and cannot be found.
Melissa demonstrates tremendous learning potential. Although chronologically she should be in the eighth grade, she was performing at a second-grade level when she arrived at Pappas. The school's program is supplemented with funds provided by NCLB. Pappas offers students tutoring, one-on-one mentoring, individualized instruction in reading and math, computer readiness, and an after-school program that provides additional time-on-task for remediation assistance. In addition, these schools provide Melissa and her peers with breakfast and lunch each day, as well as clothing, medicine and an after-school sports program.
The Pappas Schools touched Melissa's life and the lives of nearly 3,000 other homeless children last school year. Not one of these children would criticize the amount of NCLB money, the effectiveness of the program, the red tape associated with compliance or the involvement of the U. S. Department of Education in their lives. They are happy for any support that helps them overcome the harsh realities in which they have been forced to live.
Melissa and her peers will grow up, with our help or without. The question is, what does our society want these children to become? Are we willing to invest in their future or will we write them off as expendable? At the Pappas Schools the decision has been made to save every child. Pappas staff members go to shelters, abandoned buildings, river bottoms and vacant lots in search of homeless families with children.
Without NCLB funding, there would be no Pappas personnel to locate these children, no school for them to attend, and no hope for their futures. NCLB provides Melissa and her friends a chance to become educated and productive citizens in society. Their parents and some of their siblings have suffered the long-term effects associated with chemical and substance abuse, domestic violence, prostitution and even prison. Their future lies in their ability to escape the myriad horrific fates they associate with their families and other victims of poverty.
For these reasons, it is no wonder that some of President Bush's biggest fans are the students of the Thomas J. Pappas Schools. They know they can learn. They know that their school believes in them. They know that others love them. They know that No Child Left Behind works. They also know that without NCLB, they would have been left behind.
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