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No Child Left Behind act explained

May 06, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

In an address Monday at Hagerstown Community College, the State Superintendent of Schools outlined Maryland's response to the mandates of a federal act but added one caveat: "Everything I say is subject to tweaking."

At a No Child Left Behind Master Plan Summit at the Kepler Theater Monday, State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick told school officials and parents that students nationwide will have to meet federal proficiency requirements by 2014.

The federal No Child Left Behind act is designed to close the achievement gap between schools and to make sure all students, including disadvantaged groups, are academically proficient.

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"Without additional revenue we cannot feel optimistic about those groups of students meeting standards," she said. "There is a raging battle in Congress about the funding of this law."

Grasmick said ensuring that students achieve standards will depend in large part on the quality of the teaching staffs.

Grasmick said the percentage of classes in the state not taught by teachers deemed to be highly qualified will have to be reported to the federal government.

To be considered highly qualified, teachers are required to have earned credentials that in some cases go beyond traditional teaching certification.

"The requirements are totally aggressive," she said. "It's too early to tell who will have to be tested or what the tests will look like."

As for students, the state already threw out its old assessment, MSPAP - Maryland School Performance Assessment Program - and replaced it with the Maryland School Assessments, which were found to be in compliance with No Child Left Behind, she said.

Grasmick said in March a quarter of a million Maryland students in grades three, five, eight and 10 took the Maryland State Assessments for the first time. The tests are being scored and results are expected to be delivered to the states' 24 school systems by June, she said.

The state hopes to set proficiency standards for the test, in compliance with the federal act, by August, she said.

Grasmick said that in the future, schools will receive information on student testing results, broken down into subgroups such as race, poverty levels and special needs students, before and after the school year.

She talked about how placing a school into "improvement" will affect its school system. Schools are placed into the improvement category when they have consistently received poor test scores and have poor attendance or low graduation rates.

She said Howard County residents who have children attending Centennial High School, a school that has consistently received high assessment scores, are reaping the benefits of its students' good marks.

"If you put your house up for sale in the Centennial district it will be sold in a day," she said.

She said there are 80 low performing schools in Baltimore City, which all need to meet the same level of proficiency as schools in Washington County, which has two schools in improvement, Eastern Elementary School and Hancock Elementary School.

"We are all in this together," she said.

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