Changes to No Child Left Behind Act concern Columbia education leaders

Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:38 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 28, 2010

COLUMBIA — Education leaders in Columbia have a "wait and see" attitude about proposed changes to the current No Child Left Behind Act.

After eight years in action, the act is facing changes that would reward high-achieving schools and toughen consequences for low-achieving schools.

On Monday, Congress received President Barack Obama's plan to implement sweeping changes to the country's education policy, removing some mandates of No Child Left Behind and adding more. Congress must pass the plan for any changes to be put into place.

The current No Child Left Behind Act evaluates a school’s success by adequate yearly progress reports based on standardized test scores, with the end goal being that 100 percent of students will achieve grade-level proficiency by 2014.

Obama said the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, of which No Child is the current incarnation, would recognize the need for federal government to play a leading role in the encouragement of reform and standards, but changes will primarily stem from states, school districts and schools.

"I think in Columbia, we are always striving to improve our schools, and we aren't waiting for the law of the land — in this case No Child Left Behind — to force us to make improvements," said Sally Beth Lyon, Columbia Public Schools chief academic officer.

Obama's proposed "Blueprint" includes the following changes:

  • Schools deemed "excellent" or showing significant progress would be rewarded through increased aid dispersed through grants for which the schools must compete.
  • All students should graduate from high school ready for college and a career by 2020, replacing the 2014 grade-level proficiency goal.
  •  States would be required to intervene in schools with achievement problems: The lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools would be required take aggressive action, including replacing principals, replacing staff or closing. The next-lowest 5 percent would be placed on a warning list and expected to take major steps to improve. The 5 percent of schools with the widest achievement gaps would be required to reduce disparities.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, responded to the plan in a news release expressing disappointment in the administration's first attempt to change education policy.

“We were expecting to see a much broader effort to truly transform public education for kids," he said. "Instead, the accountability system of this ‘blueprint’ still relies on standardized tests to identify winners and losers."

Jack Jensen, Columbia assistant superintendent for elementary education, said: "For the federal government to come in and say that they know what is best for every school, I see a problem with that."

Sanctions of the current act include the federal government changing curriculum, replacing staff or taking over control of the schools not meeting the yearly progress goals.

"When it comes to the sanctions part of No Child Left Behind here in Columbia, Missouri, I don't think that that has led to improvement," Jensen said. He also said that he thinks improvements could be made if the funding used for sanctions could be used to provide better educational opportunities at low-performing schools.

"You can walk through schools that are designated 'failing' and find good teachers and incredible learning taking place," said Columbia Missouri National Education Association President Susan McClintic. "I don't think 100 percent of anything should be expected, particularly from children."

Jensen, McClintic and Lyon said they were all waiting to see what changes the government may end up implementing.

McClintic said she looks forward to the future meeting of leaders of the National Education Association and the Obama administration.

"I have a wait-and-see attitude on what will happen in Washington," Lyon said. "What is proposed is sometimes different than the result once it's gone through the legislative process."

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Olga Aspinwall March 18, 2010 | 8:41 a.m.

I do think that stricter actions are required in order to change public school education. As a parent, I see a huge difference between my child education in public and private school, and between the Motivation of the teachers to Teach. I had constantly to supplement my child's public school education ( Lowes Island Elementary, VA, rated #9 by the "great schools"), and if I don't do it, his education would slip down. Tests are the only way to keep public schools accountable for the level of education they are providing. Children have equal abilities to learn, but are not provided equal opportunities in order to achieve it. In my child's private school he was capable of learning everything in a class, stayed motivated and excited to study. Curriculum which was used in his private school is Core Knowledge, by Dr. Hirsch, author of cultural literacy. If a "good" public school can't do the Teaching, I have great doubts that the other public schools could do a "good job" without federal government interference. As a parent, I am looking forward to receive money for a school education , and to be able to send my child to the school of My Choice, the school which Deserves receiving this money from the government.

(Report Comment)
Olga Aspinwall March 18, 2010 | 8:48 a.m.

Until we realize that accountability and well developed curriculum, like Dr.'s Hirsch, are major keys to public school improvement, nothing will be accomplished.

(Report Comment)
Mickey Smith January 19, 2011 | 8:50 a.m.

You will never have 100% of anything, how dumb are the people in Washington. Rhetorical question.

It all starts at home, public vs. private doesn't matter, until you have parents that give a crap about their child's education this will never work. The people that No Child Left Behind is supposed to help the most don't care enough about education for it to have any effect. Go back to the days where if you fail a grade, well you don't get to go to the next grade with your friends. Novel idea. Our society is in absolute shambles right now and the government is doing everything in it's power to keep it there. Absolutely insane.

(Report Comment)
Mickey Smith January 19, 2011 | 8:54 a.m.

On a side note..Why is that Jack Jensen is being quoted? I love the guy, but he's no longer an assistant superintendent with the school district. Come on Kourtney, get a current quote from the current assistant super in elementary ed. Was he not available?

(Report Comment)
Elizabeth Brixey January 19, 2011 | 9:22 a.m.

Mickey Smith, hello. I am the Missourian city editor who worked on this story with the reporter, Kourtney Geers. To your question about Jack Jensen, this story published in March of 2010. Sometimes older stories get into our "most read" list, often because they have been rediscovered by an interested group of people elsewhere. I'll try to look at the analytics and see why this one has popped up again.

Thanks for commenting.

Liz Brixey

(Report Comment)
Mickey Smith January 19, 2011 | 10:51 a.m.


Well that would make sense then. :) I didn't notice the date, my apologies.

(Report Comment)

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