Question Of The Week: Changes To NCLB?

DailyharoldIn this post from last week (Where liberals and conservatives cohabit), the Reader's Harold Henderson asks the question of the week:  "President Bush's one big bipartisan legislative accomplishment will be up for reauthorization in 2007...How
would you change the law, if at all?"

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  • At the UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools they have started a movement to raise the level of funding for "learning supports". I wrote about this and provide links to the UCLA site at http://tutormentor.blogspot.com/2006/07/learning-supports-needed-to-make-nclb.html

  • I think that the language of NCLB does not require that students with disabilities be tested in a completely inappropriate manner. It should also be noted that some students with disablities are given alternative assessments. The poster January 04, 2007 at 12:58 PM appears to be making an argument that students with disabilities should be tested at what ever level they are instructed at. If all students with disabilities were being academically pressed and high standards were being applied to these students I would agree with 12:58. The evidence is that many students with non-cognitive disabilities once removed from the general education classroom are being instructed at levels below where individualized assessments indicate these students are functioning. I have seen this in my own work as a court appointed monitor both in CPS and with Native American students in a western state.

    There is also evidence that some students with disabilities who are primarily being educated in regular classrooms with a modified curriculum but limited direct services are really struggling. The intent of NCLBs testing requirements for students with disabilities was to provide evidence that the achievement gap between disabled students and their non-disabled peers would close over time. If these students were tested at current instructional levels this gap could not be examined.

    The US Dept of Educations current interpretation of NCLB now inappropriately holds schools that have larger numbers of students with disabilities accountable for their achievement and gives a pass for schools that have fewer disabled students. That is most unfair. The reporting requirements also allow school districts to not show how effectively or ineffectively special education is working in many schools.

    If you look at the School Report Cards for many of CPSs smaller schools you will see almost no achievement data for these students. Parents have no way of measuring the effectiveness of these schools for students with disabilities. The failure of CPS to effectively educate students with disabilities is dramatically represented by fact that the 2005 Report Card [and who knows when we will see the 2006 Report Card] fewer than 7% of CPS 11th graders with disabilities are reading at or above state standards. The average for the state as a whole is only marginally better with about 16% reading at or above state standards. I honestly believe we should reasonably be seeing 35% of 11th graders with disabilities reading at or above state standards.

    I support in theory using a growth standard for academic achievement for students with disabilities. But the problem is again establishing a base line from which to measure growth. As things stand now in special education I have serious questions about how school districts (not just 299) will establish the base line. I have seen too many IEPs that lack serious academic assessments of students in order for me to accept that the base line for children be simply established by that documentation. But it is critical that a learning gap between students with and without disabilities be observable no matter how we measure achievement for these students.

    NCLB has not worked for students with disabilities in urban areas; I think that much is clear. It has caused some middle class school districts to press students with disabilities harder to achieve which is good within reason. I strongly disagree with the sanctions NCLB creates, up to closure of schools, because it does not take into any consideration the social economic conditions of the students. NCLB abstractly assumes all students can learn and achieve within the same time frames regardless of the social economic situation of the students and this is not the case in my opinion.

    Rod Estvan

    Access Living of Metro Chicago

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