The "No Child Left Behind" legislation contains more than 1,000 pages of mandates which fall into three basic categories of requirements:
1) By 2007, Washington County must offer full-day kindergarten for all eligible students and half-day kindergarten for students who meet the "Free and Reduced Meals" criteria. Thirty-seven new classes will need to be phased in over the next four years at a cost of about $600,000 per year. This figure includes furniture, salaries for the additional teachers, textbooks, transportation and supplies. (The cost of portable classrooms needed to house many of these classes is included in the Capital Improvements Budget.
2) By the end of the 2005-06 school year, all teachers teaching in core academic subjects (elementary education, English, math, science and social studies) must meet new federal requirements. Teachers will not be allowed to teach out of their college majors. This means, for instance, that a high school teacher certified in social studies cannot teach one class of French to fill a school need even though he/she may be fluent in that language.
More significantly, middle school teachers who in the past were certified by the State of Maryland to teach virtually all subjects in grades K-8 will not be considered certified unless they have a major in the discipline they are teaching, i.e. math, English, science, etc. Overall, approximately one third of Washington County teachers will be considered unqualified by the new federal standards as will about three-fifths of the instructional assistants who also must meet new guidelines.
Those teachers have two years to become "highly qualified" as defined by federal law. The price tag for accomplishing this mandate is about $1.9 million. This money will aid staff in obtaining courses or degrees, in obtaining additional courses or degrees, in preparing to take the Praxis tests to substantiate their abilities, as well as in paying the costs of the tests.
3) Under "No Child Left Behind" every school, each identified group within each school (males, females, economically disadvantaged students, students whose first language is not English, special needs students, and each racial/ethnic group), as well as each individual student in Washington County, must meet Adequate Yearly Progress.
This summer, the state will determine how much growth each group should make each year to meet this mandate. Adequate Yearly Progress will be determined by scores on state tests. If even one group in school fails to make the specified growth, then that school will be labeled as failing, as will the county.
If a school fails for two years, its students may request a change to a school which is not failing. The school system would have to pay for their transportation. If a school fails for three years, the parents may request outside tutoring at the school system's expense. If a school continues to fail, the state can take over the school and order a variety of overhauls, again at the school system's expense.
These alternatives are costly and could have far-reaching effects on a county. Counties labeled as failing will have a difficult time attracting new industry. Families looking to relocate will not want their children in a "failing" school system. There could indeed be a snowball effect with property values falling and county revenues plummeting as well. To close the achievement gaps between various groups of students and assure that Adequate Yearly Progress is made, the school system must implement interventions such as special reading and math programs research-based for success (another federal mandate).