February 8, 2006 Extra Credit
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February 8, 2006

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November 28
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"Not Getting Left Behind"

The following editorial appeared in The Washington Post (2-5-06):

"It's been a long time in coming, but at least a few of President Bush's opponents are beginning to see the potential of his No Child Left Behind legislation. Thanks to the law, which requires states to assess children annually and to break down the results by minority group and income level, it has for the first time become possible to track which schools are failing which students. More important, the law also requires states to turn schools around and help them succeed.

"…Last week, the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP did quietly come down on the side of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who is being sued by Connecticut over some of the act's provisions."

"Civil rights lawyers point out that this line of argument could enable states not to comply with other laws, among them the Civil Rights Act, which was also 'unfunded.' But John Brittain, chief counsel to the Lawyers' Committee, goes further, noting that Connecticut, although the wealthiest state in the country, also has the biggest achievement gap between white and minority students. 'Children deserve those annual assessments,' he says, so that they can be given the help they need. In terms of its goals and intent, if not its implementation, he also calls No Child Left Behind potentially the 'greatest civil rights education statute that has ever been passed.'"

"By helping to fine-tune and implement the law instead of constantly running it down, Democratic politicians, child welfare advocates and teachers unions could help fix broken school systems as well. A profile of once-disastrous, now-successful Maury Elementary School in Alexandria by The Post's Jay Mathews last week showed what can be achieved if teachers and administrators use the law well. It's an odd idea, getting the Democrats to embrace a Republican project. But if they are brave enough to do it, thousands of inner-city children will be better off."

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"Our Total Focus and Concentration is on our Kids"

The following article, excerpted below, appeared in The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia (2-6-06):

"Four years after Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, a law stating most public schools must have teachers in the classroom who are 'highly qualified' by the end of this school year or risk losing federal money, local educators are saying area schools have come a long way.

"'Our total focus and concentration is on our kids,' said Pamela Bailey, the principal of Spring Hill Elementary.… Bailey said it [NCLB] benefits the children when the administrators and teachers spend quality time planning and discussing the children's education.

"Spring Hill Elementary is one of the most socioeconomically diverse schools in the county. Having a high number of low-income students and a high number of minorities, it was chosen to have an outside facilitator assist the school by working directly with staff for improvements, said Gerry Sawrey, assistant superintendent of school improvement for Cabell County Schools.

"A teacher for 17 years, Sharon Stenson said Spring Hill is taking the time to better the curriculum and provide curriculum that meets each child's needs. 'I've seen more children interested in reading and have a higher reading level,' Stenson said, referring to the past few years.

"Stenson and Bailey agree that the No Child Left Behind criteria has been beneficial and productive for Spring Hill. U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has stressed the importance of having quality teachers in meeting student-achievement goals set by No Child Left Behind, but she told states this fall they would get extra time if they demonstrated a 'good faith effort toward the goal."

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"A Crucial Test of the No Child Left Behind Law"

The following article, excerpted below, appeared in The Washington Post (2-2-06):

"…No school in the Washington area has felt more severely the weight of the 2002 law that not only tracks how well children do on state testing but also demands that schools improve their performance every year. In 2004, Maury [Elementary] students passed the state reading test at the lowest rate in Alexandria: 38 percent of third-graders and 59 percent of fifth-graders passed….

"Maury was one of about 425 -- 12 percent -- of Virginia, Maryland and District schools on the 'needs improvement' list and was a crucial test of the No Child Left Behind law. Some educators say the law, with its sanctions and labels, will force low-income, persistently low-performing schools such as Maury to improve. Others say it will drag them down and scare away families.

"For several years, Maury had been known as troubled. Located in an affluent neighborhood near the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple, the school draws most of its students from housing complexes farther away. Like most low-income children, they have, on average, lower test scores and need more help to improve.

"In 2003, with the federal law taking effect, Alexandria Superintendent Rebecca L. Perry tried to shake up the school: She required all teachers to reapply for their jobs and gave each one who made the grade a $3,000 bonus. In 2004, she moved an unusually successful and energetic principal, Lucretia Jackson, into Maury and provided funds for new carpets, new tile walls, a new media center and more classroom space.

"When Jackson arrived at Maury in the summer of 2004, she organized open houses for parents and put a sign out front that read, 'Wanted: More Children to Love and Educate.' She brought in volunteer tutors, made sure that no Maury class had more than 20 students and added hour-long after-school lessons three afternoons a week.

"Dawson prepared a detailed chart that showed the average Maury scores on each test, 2005's compared with 2004's. He even used one of his favorite computer tools -- the Data Disaggregator -- to clarify each gain, no matter how slim. His analysis of the fifth-grade writing test showed that 22 of the 24 students tested had passed, albeit three of them by a hair. But the other 19 improved nicely. The memo Dawson prepared, 'Justification for the AYP Determination,' was a defense of the progress of just 43 students, the sum total of the school's remaining third- and fifth-graders, the only grades tested last spring.

"Dawson sent the data and supporting memos to Richmond, and in mid-November, like a high school senior looking up his SAT score, he used his password to log on to the state's Web site. Just as he had hoped, Maury had made Adequate Yearly Progress. The word spread quickly.

"'Making AYP is a validation of all that we know our students are doing,' she [Jackson] said. 'I'm overjoyed, because I know how extremely hard my staff worked.'"

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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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Last Modified: 05/15/2008