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The Enemies of Our Enemies Definitely Aren't Our Friends, But We Can Still Rejoice When They Give NCLB Hell

Wednesday, March 26, 2003 - LOWELL From school district report cards to supplemental services, from underperforming schools to standardized testing, No Child Left Behind has become the elephant in the land of education-reform movements.

The law's intricacies, advantages and possible pitfalls as well as the impact it will have on Lowell were laid out for parents at Monday's Citywide Parent Council meeting.

Parents came to the meeting knowing little of the local impact the bill would have and left awash in talk of federal regulations and education reform.

Paul Reville, executive director of the center for education research and policy at Mass Inc. and a Harvard education lecturer, laid out the basics of the new federal legislation, tracing its history through the 1980s and "A Nation at Risk," a study that castrated the American public school system, as well as the reform movement that followed.

One of the original authors of Massachusetts' Education Reform Act, Reville guided parents through the maze of new regulations that will be coming with No Child Left Behind, showing how they relate and may interact with the current system in place across the state.

The main points of the national law encompass more standardized testing, more parental involvement and more accountability for school districts.

Some of the aspects of the legislation that are affecting school districts now are the requirements that a school-choice option be made available to families. Any student enrolled in a school listed as underperforming would be able to transfer to other, better-performing schools in the district.

In addition to the higher accountability stakes, No Child Left Behind also issues reams of new information to parents. School district report cards, which show how well each school in a district is performing, will be issued. Parents will be made aware when educators do not have a degree in the subject area in which they are teaching. And families will have the opportunity to enroll their child in supplemental support services or look at different schools if their school is labeled as underperforming.

Under the new legislation, students will also be tested every year in the third through eighth grades, and once in high school.

"So if you thought we had enough testing in Massachusetts with MCAS, we're going to get more with No Child Left Behind," Reville said.

And how those tests are assessed raises even more issues. Schools have to meet adequate yearly progress, which means they have to increase their scores a certain amount over the previous year. All subgroups within a school minorities, special education, or English language learners, for example also have to show progress.

Many schools even schools that now have high MCAS scores are concerned that they will not be able to meet the 100 percent passage rate that is required of every child by 2014.

"There are significant fears that most states will have a majority of their schools in underperforming status before long," he said.

With all the changes come questions, and few answers. How much funding will local districts get from the federal government to implement the changes? How will the new rules sit alongside the education-reform structure already in place in Massachusetts?

"We had the architecture of Education Reform running for nine years before this showed up," Reville said. "Suddenly, on top of that, we're laying something that, in principle, is consistent and aligned, but in practice is quite different. There is the danger that by putting this architecture upon our own architecture, the whole thing will collapse under the weight of change."

— Susan McMahon
Parents hear about No Child Left Behind
Lowell (MASS) Sun

March 26, 2003


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