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A New Game in Town - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Listen UP!

 

A New Game in Town
 
NCLB, a banner for the Republican-led Congress that is now being unseated, is on Congress’ agenda for reauthorization in 2007. While there is little debate that test scores have been raising across the nation, there is serious doubt that these score improvements reflect real student absorption of content. It is clear that seventy-one of local districts have had to reduce time spent on elementary subjects outside of reading and mathematics. In spite of best efforts to improve teaching to meet NCLB highly qualified definitions, problems persist for special education, high school mathematics and science, and multiple-subject teachers in rural districts. With only about two percent of students eligible to move from schools that fail for two years to achieve AYP, and only twenty percent of students eligible for added tutoring, the question arises if limited resources might be better used than in present choice initiatives. NCLB, for all its favorable aspects, comes at some very high costs. Last year, thirty-six of fifty states reported they lacked sufficient staff to keep up with NCLB work loads. Nationwide, eighty percent of local districts reported spending levels, over the past two years, exceed federal funds dedicated to NCLB. In school year 2005-2006, two-thirds of local districts received no funding increase or lost funds compared to the prior year. In order for local districts to continue to achieve elevated goals it is becoming more important to let your Congressman know how his actions are impacting children in his district. Now Louisiana’s accountability commission is considering the implementation of an end-of-course exit examination for high school students. The Center on Education Policy recently reported that “The cost of implementing a policy requiring high school exit exams ranges from $171 to $557 per student per year, and the price escalates sharply when states make efforts to increase pass rates, raise the cut score for adequate performance, or adopt a more challenging test.” Most of the cost incurred by school districts in helping student to pass exit exam involves school personnel. The hidden costs include remedial services for students who fail the exam, programs aimed at preventing exam failure, professional development to improve teacher skill, and retesting support. Studies show that more than ninety-six percent of the exit exam costs are borne by local school districts rather than the state, and these costs are almost never budgeted or tracked by local districts. School board members’ obligation to insure that each child receives at least an adequate education includes advocating for state and federal obligations to support those policies that dictate spending increases. With the new majority in Congress, coupling with elections of all members of the Louisiana scheduled for this fall, it is clear that there is need for increasing the level of advocacy efforts by all school board members. Both NABA and LSBA are developing enhanced advocacy. On the Congressional level, the immediate goal is obtaining additional sponsors for NSBA-advocated revisions to NCLB. Looking forward to the regular legislative session, it is expected that the proposed teacher pay increase and state-wide salary schedule/MFP revision proposal will be high on the wish list for Louisiana school districts. Louisiana school board members should immediately begin drafting and adopting resolutions that seek achievement of those objectives, and also contact individual members of Congress and the legislature to convey their sense of these items as high priority policy.

 

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