Published on 11/16/2005
Hartford — A panel of legal and educational experts said Tuesday the No Child Left Behind law was designed with good intentions but has proved to be “intrusive,” “overly prescribed,” and particularly “inappropriate” for special education students.
The Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal at the University of Connecticut School of Law hosted the symposium on NCLB and its impact on the state and its schools in advance of Congress' five-year reauthorization of the law in January,
The law is poised for examination because it is entering its “mid-life,” said Mark Stapleton, the state education department's chief of legal affairs. He said the new era will have to take into account declining federal funding; the fact that far more schools than originally envisioned are considered “failing;” and the transfer, or “school choice,” option is creating an even greater concentration of low-performing students in urban areas.
Panelists said complying with NCLB prevents cities and towns from paying for preschool, child healthcare, technology, literacy training for parents, security and other programs that would benefit students more than the additional testing required by the law.
“Give parents and students what they really need,” said State Education Commissioner Betty J. Sternberg, a panelist. “Don't just measure more with more testing...”...Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who participated in Tuesday's symposium, said he filed suit because NCLB violates state law and a provision within NCLB that prevents the state from expending its own funds to comply with the law. He said the suit was filed as a “last resort” after the U.S. Department of Education refused to grant Connecticut flexibility under the law.
Blumenthal said the U.S. Department of Education was supposed to respond to the suit in October, but was granted an extension. He expects the department to ask to dismiss the suit this month...
...Panel members were particularly critical of NCLB's requirement to test special education students at their grade level instead of “out of level” — at their ability level — saying it provided no worthwhile data for teachers. They also said the impersonality of NCLB clashes with the long-established Individual Education Plan, a learning plan designed for special education students through meetings among parents, teachers and administrators.
Glenn McCrath, who oversees special education in West Hartford schools, said NCLB is having a “tremendously negative impact from a psychological standpoint” on special education students. Patrice McCarthy, a legal counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said the testing mandates are “destroying motivation” by setting “unreachable standards.”Ann-Marie DeGraffenreidt, the director of the TeamChild Project, a center for disadvantaged children, said low-performing students are being encouraged in some troubled high schools to drop out and go to Adult Education to keep the school's overall standardized tests scores from dropping lower.
Yep, it is indeed true, all of it. And by the way, I'm back.