Monday, November 22, 2004

The view from Eugene, Oregon

Here's an excellent article about the affects of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in Eugene, Oregon. One school -- Creswell Middle -- passed all grade levels in both math and reading in every subgroup -- except one: participation. Their special ed group failed because less than 95% of the students took the test. From the article in the Eugene Register Guard:

Here's what happened: In the fall of 2003, the boy, then a freshman at Creswell High, got bumped back to repeat the eighth grade. It had more to do with behavior than academics, officials said - in fact, the boy had aced the state assessment tests given the previous spring to all eighth-graders.

Because he'd done so well, when testing time came around again, his teachers decided he shouldn't have to take them a second time.

The Oregon Department of Education didn't see it that way. The boy was counted as
missing the test, dropping Creswell below the 95 percent participation rate.

This is where that magic word of flexibility comes into play again. There have to be provisions made to avoid punishing schools that really are successful but fail in one or two subgroups. No institution is -- or can be -- absolutely perfect. (Lord knows the Bush White House isn't.)

It'll be very interesting to see how Spellings answers questions about NCLB in her Senate confirmation hearings early next year-- if she has to at all. It's possible the Senators will give her a free pass and ask little in anything about the major problems of NCLB. I've already written about the dissatisfaction of incoming Chairman Senator Enzi (R-WY) who will take over Sen. Gregg's (R-NH) position on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee. Perhaps he'll ask some tough questions.

Here's hoping there are some tough questions.


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