Sessions visits McKenzie

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sen. Jeff Sessions visited McKenzie School on Wednesday morning, sitting down with school administrators to discuss No Child Left Behind and issues currently facing our nation's educators.

Sessions said No Child Left Behind has helped change American schools for the better. He said the act, signed into law in 2001 by President George Bush, has done what it promised: increased the level of accountability among state school systems.

&#8220The key to it was to make sure kids are learning,” said Sessions. &#8220Are students learning more? Yes.”

Sessions asked assembled teachers about the Alabama Reading Initiative, a statewide K-12 reading program implemented with NCLB and designed to improve instruction, eventually leading to a goal of 100 percent literacy among public school students. Alabama was one of three states to receive federal funding in the first year of NCLB for its reading program.

McKenzie Principal Randy Williams said schoolteachers consistently monitor the work of students, conducting weekly walkthroughs in the classrooms to determine how much progress is being made.

&#8220We identify the kids who need more instruction and are able to help them almost immediately,” he said. &#8220It's a great thing.”

Sessions also asked how students were adjusting to the new Alabama High School Graduation Exam. The traditional exit exam was changed following the NCLB act to make it more difficult and test questions were drawn from a wider curriculum.

Williams said it was a challenge to get students to focus on the exam.

&#8220I come from the old school,” he said. &#8220Where you didn't have to have a pizza party as incentive to learn. That's difficult to deal with.”

Sessions agreed there is some things with No Child Left Behind that need to be changed, including AYP ratings that may or may not indicate a school's progress. For example, a student who moves to another school in or out of the state and graduates still counts against the dropout rate of the school he or she left.

Still, No Child Left Behind is helping students succeed.

&#8220A lot of kids are succeeding we never thought possible,” he said.

Sessions took a brief tour of the school, visiting two classrooms.

One second grade student asked Sessions if he was the president.

&#8220No,” he said. &#8220But thanks for asking.”