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|02-06-03: Area school administrators cautious about
|New law requires accountability
By JANIE SOUTHARD
The Daily Standard
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which President George W. Bush
signed into law a year ago, is the largest scope of change in education in nearly 40
With sweeping prose such as "we believe every child can
learn," the federal program mandates every state to set up its own system to ensure
all children learn the core subjects - reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
Emphasis in the plan, which expects all children to perform at level by 2014, falls on
grades 3 through 8.
There are four NCLB principles to be met: stronger accountability for
results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents and an
emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.
But, what do local educators think of the program?
Fort Recovery Elementary Principal Nancy Knapke answers cautiously
regarding the area of stronger accountability, which focuses on teaching/learning and
thus, the program's initial push, reading.
"The intentions are fine, but passing laws doesn't guarantee
success," she says. "All of us learn differently. Often the biggest problem in
education are unreal expectations."
While few would question the lifelong importance of reading, teaching
children to read is not a boilerplate operation.
For example, children with learning disabilities participate in the
required tests that make up the school district's community report card, a big part of the
"There are so many different profiles for these students,
depending on what their learning disability is and what their basic ability is. Most (LD
students) depend on accommodations (special assistance or use of learning devices) daily.
But during the (now mandated) achievement testing, those accommodations are not
permitted," Knapke pointed out, adding it appears this omission sets these kids up
In situations with struggling readers, Knapke said the ideal is to
build on the positive.
"The child may say he can't read, but he's trying as hard as he
can. Effort is a positive and we want to reinforce that. Then in the testing situation,
those kids are reminded they can't read on level. They don't need that reminder; they
already know it.
"Sitting through a two-hour test is almost intolerable for a kid
who can't read and can't have use of accommodations that he has daily," Knapke said.
But, NCLB measures success by whether every child is learning and it
says such measurements can only be accomplished through testing. NCLB requires it
In her school newsletter column, Sharon Sherry, St. Henry's curriculum
director, said testing is expensive in any school budget, not only for the tests but also
scoring and reporting.
"Some tests in the NCLB will be provided by the state, but the
district will be required to finance others with no additional funding for testing from
either the state or federal levels," she said of the mandated annual testing in all
areas K through 8 and for grade 10.
Meanwhile, the reading program and teacher quality areas of NCLB did
receive federal money during the past years - $900 million for Reading First program in
2001 and $4 billion in 2002 for teachers' quality training and recruitment.
Big money but doled out to millions of schools nationwide.
Locally, Celina City Schools district, the county's largest, received
$340,000 for reading and $138,000 to help ensure district teachers are classified
"highly qualified" per NCLB standards, according to District Treasurer Mike
"We're the biggest district in the county, so you can adjust those
figures down accordingly for smaller districts," he said.
Diana Kramer, Franklin elementary principal, heads up the district's
various government and other grant programs through the Comprehensive Continuous
Improvement Plan (CCIP) and commented for the newspaper what a highly qualified teacher
is, although the official wording has not been received.
"The state board of education is waiting for federal approval on
the draft guidelines for highly qualified teachers," Kramer said in a telephone
But the wording submitted is primarily based on common sense.
Teachers must have all state licensing and certification completed and
be teaching in the appropriate area.
For example, an elementary level teacher should teach at the elementary
level. In high school, teachers certified to teach history should teach history. That's
the basic explanation, although there are temporary certificates to teach and those can be
"We are fortunate in our area. Highly qualified teachers in
Auglaize and Mercer counties are not a problem. Our teachers are excellent," Kramer
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