Local educators face hurdles in No Child Left Behind

January 27, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Getting funding and simply understanding the new federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 are the major hurdles local educators are facing as they prepare accountability plans to meet federal requirements.

"I think the main thing to understand is this is a very complicated bill," said Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

The law, which is approximately 1,000 pages, replaces a long-standing law that was 75 pages, Morgan said.

The law calls for more individual accountability for students and teachers, Morgan said.

Schools that fail to improve must provide transportation costs to transfer students to better-performing schools. Or parents of students in schools that need improvement could get federal funds for tutoring or after-school services.


By Jan. 1, state education officials must present the federal government with their plans for holding schools accountable for making progress each year, reporting performance to parents and helping students achieve proficiency in the tested subjects.

Education officials with Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania said they expected to submit accountability plans by Jan. 31.

Pennsylvania Department of Education spokeswoman Beth Williams said newly-elected Gov. Edward Rendell's administration probably won't ask to extend the Jan. 31 deadline, but she didn't know for sure.

As of Jan. 15, U.S. Department of Education spokesman Dan Langan said he was unaware of any requests to extend the deadline.

"If there's a request, it will be reviewed. The intention is to hold firm to the Jan. 31 deadline," Langan said.

Education officials with the three states also are establishing benchmarks for adequate yearly progress. The benchmarks must be set on the state, school system and school levels.

Pennsylvania educators determined the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests did not need to be revised to be used to meet federal testing requirements, Williams said. Those tests are given in grades three, five, eight and 11. Test results from last spring will be used as a baseline.

The West Virginia Department of Education is setting up a consistent standard across the state for school districts and schools, said Deborah Brown, executive director of instructional services.

West Virginia educators started creating new standardized tests before No Child Left Behind and are making sure the tests align with the federal requirements, Brown said.

The tests for math and reading and language arts will be given for the first time next school year to grades three through eight and grade 10, Brown said.

Maryland educators were still trying to determine how to measure yearly adequate progress, Maryland Department of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard said.

To meet the higher standards of No Child Left Behind, Maryland did away with the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program exam and this year began giving Maryland School Assessments tests to students in grades three, five, eight and 10.

This year's test results will serve as a baseline for establishing target goals for next school year, Morgan said.

While school officials in Washington County; Jefferson County, W.Va.; Berkeley County, W.Va.; and Chambersburg, Pa., didn't have a price tag yet for what it would take to help their school systems meet No Child Left Behind standards, they said funding is or could be a hurdle.

As budget season approaches, each school system's officials are expecting a tough time seeking federal, state and local funding because of budget cutbacks and shortfalls.

"There may be other things that have to go in favor of this," Morgan said.

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