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No Child Left Behind Act examined

February 25, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Candra Lyons won't be teaching in her own classroom for another 18 months, but the Wilson College junior already is concerned about the additional burdens of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"It will make my job a little more stressful and a littler harder for me to focus on the social skills of my students," said Lyons, who is a secondary education major concentrating in math.

Lyons was part of a seven-person panel of educators and administrators who discussed the federal legislation enacted in 2002 that places tough mandates on schools.

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The legislation attempts to address some pitfalls in education and requires states to establish a benchmark for adequate yearly progress.

In Pennsylvania, educators will use the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test, which they already were administering to third-, fifth-, eighth- and 11th-graders. By 2014, all students must score in the "proficient" or "advanced" levels on the test, said Jeffrey Bair, a middle-school principal in Littlestown, Pa.

Schools that fail to improve must provide transportation costs to send students to better-performing schools and face federal intervention.

During Tuesday's discussion, which was attended by about 40 Wilson students and community members, most comments centered on whether the law was forcing teachers to simply drill students to take the test.

Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Chambersburg Area School District, said federal funding accounts for about 8 percent of most districts' funding.

"Eight percent is driving our curriculum. Should it be that way?" he asked.

The answer is no, according to Michael Finucane, a member of the Chambersburg Board of School Directors.

"I think it is a terrible, terrible law. Children complain and complain about testing and testing, drilling and coaching," he said. "It's like drilling your kids until everyone runs a 5-minute mile."

Finucane said he believes teachers will be forced to teach to the standardized test to improve school test scores, taking time away from other educational experiences like field trips and debates.

"We really have a good public school system. It's amazing how it's sold to people that schools are bad," he said. "I predict the law will fall of its own weight in a few years."

"Who wins? The people who have designed the test. I don't think the kids are winning," said Cindy Campbell, a fifth-grade teacher in the Chambersburg school district. "The legislation pushed us into worrying about numbers and not worrying about kids."

The panel discussion was sponsored by the Wilson College Education Club and also included Marjorie Blaze, representing the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and Sarah Bair of Wilson College's education department.

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