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Wednesday, 17 January 2007 01:12

California Challenges “No Child Left Behind Act”

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slide18As Amador County Education Officials approve their Local Education Agency Plan to meet the federal government’s No Child Left Behind mandates, California State Officials are preparing to battle the feds over the 2002 Educational Initiative. California State Department of Education Officials are hoping Congress will consider the state’s concerns about the federal law, concerns which center around the basic question of how to effectively evaluate the progress of students.

slide21 Congress is set to evaluate the five-year-old landmark education reform law this year. California currently uses an incremental system to measure student performance through the Academic Performance Index. This index allows a school to compare themselves with like schools but also allows for rewards to be given to schools that are still far below acceptable academic standards but are able to demonstrate through the state’s STAR testing program that their school is improving over previous testing cycles. This comparison method allows schools to improve based on their previous year’s scores in an incremental method – even if their students are still underscoring acceptable norms on the standardized testing. This, according to officials in Sacramento, is vital in our state where roughly half of all public school students are non-English language learners. Officials state that this is best for the state and they want to keep it. Federal officials want California to switch to another performance indicator- one that follows the law. Pat McCabe, director of policy and evaluation for the California Department of Education told the AP that “What we want is the federal government to give credence to states that have well-established accountability systems in place that existed before NCLB,"  

slide24 The California system of accountability rewards schools for making progress toward achievement over time, even when they don't meet the overall yearly targets and even when some groups of students remain far below others says McCabe- and this system, say educators, fits the demographics of California best because it is a model more fair to schools than the stricter federal measurement, the annual yearly progress, or AYP  achievement goals, McCabe said. The California model rewards schools that start out as very low achievers rather than holding all schools to the same standard. Department of Education officials also believe the 2014 deadline is too ambitious. McCabe states, “Of course we're trying to (meet it), that's our goal," he continued "Do I think it will happen? No." U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has been flexible on some of the law's deadlines, such as its requirement to have all teachers fully qualified by 2006. And while she has said she is open to new ways of measuring achievement, she has identified a few principles the administration will not alter. Among them is the 2014 goal. That goal is written into the original law and now California Education Officials are also lobbying for flexibility in the hard and fast deadline as well. "It's written into the law," department spokesman Chad Colby said. No Child Left Behind had bipartisan support when signed by President Bush in 2002

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