Thursday, July 5, 2012

Iowa NCLB Waiver Denied-Now What?

I am sure by now you have heard the news that Iowa did not receive a waiver from the sanctions imposed by the No Child Left Behind legislation. As a point of emphasis, so far Iowa is the only state that has had a waiver application denied. That has certainly raised my eyebrows a bit!

To provide a little context, the No Child Left Behind legislation (2001), states that all students must be proficient in the areas of math, science, and reading by 2014. Schools who fail to meet that benchmark face stiff penalties, up to and perhaps including state takeover and possible closure of schools that are deemed failing. This is no doubt a noble goal, and one that we should have for all students in all schools. Unfortunately it is completely unrealistic and impossible to attain. Our own statewide research into schools that are on the "Watch List" or SINA (School in Need of Assistance) list continues to grow annually.  By the time 2014 arrives, every school in the state will be on the SINA list. In Hudson, one year we may be on the watch list and another year we may be off the watch list (if a school is on the watch list for two consecutive years they are labeled as a SINA; that is when sanctions begin to kick in). So far, schools districts in large urban areas have received the infamous label, not because the are failing, but because they have much larger sub-group populations that require reporting. This gets a little confusing, but if you have 10 or less students in a particular sub-group, they are not reported for NCLB purposes. 

We have submitted our testing data to the DE (Department of Education), and us along with all the other school in the state are waiting to see if we have met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress). If we haven't, well then we are on the list. I am not very optimistic that we made AYP this year, and not because our students didn't work hard or our teachers didn't perform. That couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that the goal becomes increasingly unrealistic each year. Adding insult to injury the test form changed this year and it doesn't match with previous longitudinal data. Iowa Testing Programs will argue that it does, but what most schools have seen [this year] is test scores that have actually decreased since last year. ITP came out with a new form because they wanted to make the test more rigorous/relevant and more closely aligned with the Iowa Core. I suspect it had much more to do with profit. To argue that it is more relevant is absurd, particularly considering the questions on the test requiring the students to use a box and whiskers graph. Do you even know what that is? 
Pardon my digression, the point of this monologue was to discuss the denial of the NCLB waiver. In the short term we have managed to receive some short term relief. That is good news. The bad news is that we have one year to get our act together as a state. It's bad news because so far we haven't been able to do that. We are more content to point fingers and blame one another rather than come together to achieve a common goal. 

It's an election year and we are on the eve of 'robo-calls' and endless commercials that do nothing more that attack opponents, take sound bites out of context, or make accusations that aren't quite right. As individuals we may lean a little to the right or to the left, and when we go to our polling place we will make our voices heard. This year though, I am going to be listening a little harder for someone who is able to work with people and find common ground, rather than whether or not they have an "R" or a "D" behind their name.

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