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NCLB Trashes Pennsylvania

Note subhead to Philadelphia Inquirer story

In Phila., 216 schools did not meet federal standards and will be sanctioned if the state test scores do not improve.

Federal standards. Surely this is a phrase to chill your soul.

The state yesterday gave early warning to nearly 900 Pennsylvania public schools, including 41 publicly funded charter schools, that they are not meeting new federal academic requirements.

The warning is just that: Schools can escape sanctions if students improve their performance on the next round of the state's achievement test, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), scheduled for April, according to the state Department of Education.

"Some schools will have to make a minor adjustment, deal with minor issues that have put them on this list," Education Secretary Charles Zogby said yesterday. "But there is a subset of schools that face a really tremendous climb, that have the greatest challenge."

Most of the 884 schools identified as poor performers failed to meet what the state described as starting-point proficiency benchmarks on state math, reading and writing tests.

Another indicator - a student participation rate of 95 percent or better on state tests - snared 106 schools statewide.

Note: Read that last paragraph again. See how scared the Feds are of participatory democracy?

Getting 11th graders to take the state tests seriously has proved difficult. The new list cites several suburban high schools for lackluster participation. . . .

The state last summer tagged 256 schools as low-performing based on academic achievement, and imposed sanctions that included instructing local officials to offer parents opportunities to place their children in other local public schools.

Zogby described those schools, many of them in Philadelphia, Chester Upland and other struggling urban districts, as "our lowest-performing schools." He said the expanded list issued yesterday gives "an even broader, more uniform picture of schools that aren't making the grade." . . .

The state yesterday identified 216 Philadelphia public schools as failing to meet federal and state benchmarks - 82 percent of the city's 264 schools. And 24 of 46 charter schools operating in the city were cited. . . .

Zogby, who leaves office later this week, said the federal rules under the 2002 law known as No Child Left Behind give the states little discretion. However, critics of the Pennsylvania tests say that the performance levels need regauging and that thousands of students show proficiency on other standardized tests while falling short on the PSSAs.

"As No Child unfolds, the states have to figure out more realistic ways to deal with the exceptions to the rule," Zogby said. "But we start from the point of view that the system is accountable for all children.". . .

— Connie Langland
Pa. issues warnings to 884 schools
Philadelphia Inquirer
Dec. 31, 2002


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