Congressman, school board discuss education law
March 29, 2011
By Laura Geggel
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and school board members from six different districts, including the Issaquah School District, met March 25 to discuss the problems swirling around the No Child Left Behind federal law.
In Washington, no school district larger than 6,100 students is meeting standards required by No Child Left Behind, Issaquah School Board member Chad Magendanz said.
“This is an issue that I’ve heard over and over and we just can’t seem to make any progress on it,” said Reichert, a federal representative for the 8th Congressional District, an area including Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish and other Eastside and South King County cities through rural Pierce County.
During the meeting, Reichert, R-Auburn, and the school board members agreed that No Child Left Behind needs reform.
No Child Left Behind uses data from standardized test scores in reading and math. In Washington, the tests are called the Measurement of Student Progress, for grades three through eight, and the High School Proficiency Exam, for sophomores.
If a school fails to meet standard in one of the 37 subgroups, it is listed as failing. Schools receiving federal Title I funds for low-income students that do not meet AYP must notify their parents and could face sanctions. For instance, depending on how many years a school has missed AYP, it must give students the option of moving to another school within the district and paying for their transportation.
In 2010, seven schools in the Issaquah School District, as well as the district itself, did not meet AYP. At Issaquah Valley Elementary School, parents were given the choice of moving their students to another school.
“When we’re sending the messages out to all of the parents saying our school didn’t meet AYP, it’s first labeling the school as a failure, which may or may not be the case,” Magendanz said. “Quite often, it isn’t.”
He noted that when parents were given the option to change schools due to AYP sanctions, children were typically moved for unrelated reasons.
“What we’re finding is that the parents who do move their child are not doing it for academic reasons, and in most cases are not the affected kids in the cell that failed,” Magendanz said. “In many cases, they are going to a school with a lower performing level for their cell.”
Labeling a school as failing was damaging not only to the community, but also to teachers, Issaquah School Board President Jan Woldseth Colbrese said.
“It goes from being No Child Left Behind to ‘no school left unpunished,’” Issaquah board member Marnie Maraldo said.
No Child Left Behind has other consequences, too, Magendanz said.
Since the program only measures math and reading, some schools are pouring resources into those two subjects, neglecting others, such as science or writing. Schools might also give extra time and attention to students who are not meeting standard instead of giving all students challenging resources.
“One of the improvements that has been suggested is going to an evaluated model or a growth model, so we are looking at all kids and whether they got a year’s worth of education,” Magendanz said.
He and the other school board members asked Reichert to work to suspend the penalties affecting schools that do not meet AYP.
Reichert agreed and said he would try to move the conversation along at the federal level. President Barack Obama announced plans to reform No Child Left Behind, allowing more flexibility, resources and accountability in a March 15 press release. As of March 28, there was no new legislation to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, said Lincoln Vander Veen, Reichert’s senior outreach manager.
In the meantime, Reichert urged the school board members to get in touch with the House Education and Labor Committee.
“I think there is an argument that everyone understands that the federal government cannot operate schools at a local level,” Reichert said. “That local school districts, and principals and teachers at the local schools, should be the ones making decisions about specific students.”
No Child Left Behind
After the U.S. Congress approved the bill, President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2002. The law uses standardized test scores to rate schools and school districts. Schools receiving federal Title I funds — money for low-income students — must meet standard on math and writing standardized tests, or face penalties. If a school meets standard, it meets Adequate Yearly Progress. In Washington, the standard increases every three years, requiring students to score higher on standardized tests.The standardized test scores are divided into 37 subgroups for schools and 111 subgroups for school districts. Subgroups include categories delineating race and ethnicity, students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students.To meet AYP, schools and districts must also meet a number of other factors, including a certain on-time graduation rate and unexcused absence rate.
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.