Supers: Changes needed to NCLB

Published 12:03 am Thursday, March 1, 2012

Local superintendents said Tuesday they agree that changes need to be made to the No Child Left Behind Law.

Earlier this week, the Alabama Depa-rtment of Educ-ation anno-unced it was looking to freeze annual progress goals on standardized tests at last year’s levels while it works to draft an application for a waiver from the federal law.

In September, the U.S. Department of Education announced it was making state waivers available, which would allow them to escape some of the sanctions and provisions, which require all children to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

For states that intend to apply for waivers, the U.S. Department of Education has made available temporary flexibility from the law, allowing them to freeze annual goals on standardized tests — which determine Adequate Yearly Progress — for one year.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools must make Adequate Yearly Progress on standardized tests, which means that a certain percentage of students in the school must score at or above proficiency on state tests in order for the school to be considered passing.

“Something has to happen before 2014,” said Andalusia City School Superintendent Ted Watson. “The standards of 100 percent for every child in reading is totally unrealistic. That’s one unifying thing throughout the nation is that we all know that won’t happen.”

Watson said the idea of freezing the standards is a good idea.

“The idea of the freezing is a good thing, if not we are getting to into the range where you have schools that are scoring good on standardized tests, but will be portrayed as failing schools.”

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said he felt that NCLB has been beneficial in a number of ways.

“I have said all along that accountability is a wonderful thing,” he said. “Across the state, we are achieving at remarkable levels, but a system where 100 is an A and anything less is an F is simply asinine.”

Last year’s test scores were exceptional locally.

Andalusia City Schools scored 90 percent or better in all areas except seventh grade math.

Andalusia’s third graders scored 97 percent in reading and 97 percent in math, the highest scores in the county, while the lowest score was 80 percent for the county’s seventh graders, all well beyond the required average.

State Schools Superintendent Tommy Bice said he and his staff want to take their time in crafting Alabama’s waiver in order to make the best plan of action for the state’s children.

“Some of the things they are proposing are designed to give us flexibility in testing,” Watson said. “It will address expectations. The standards will still be there, but it will give flexibility on how much testing and who needs to be tested. Our new school superintendent really has his hand on the pulse of what is real and workable in Alabama.”

Smithart agreed.

“The important aspect is to make sure we formulate a plan that works for Alabama,” he said.