When the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2002, the idea was to get all students learning at grade level by 2014 in reading and math.
In theory, this federal law would have students at the same level, with no child left behind, as the name suggests. In reality, however, there are visible holes in the system.
Lawmakers are scheduled to revise the act this year. We hope those in charge look at the holes and act accordingly.
Most notably, entire schools can lose funding and be labeled as needing improvement if a certain group of students fail federally mandated tests — to which a large number of schools spend time teaching.
This includes students with learning disabilities and those still learning English as a language. Both groups appear to have been an afterthought when this law was drafted.
An Associated Press story printed Feb. 11 in the Register details problems these groups have with taking the tests.
One problem with these tests is that they’re standardized. So naturally, a developmentally handicapped student, or one who can’t clearly read English instructions, might have trouble taking the tests for a variety of reasons.
According to the AP, about 10 percent of special education students — those with the most severe disabilities — take alternative tests. Students enrolled in U.S. schools less than a year are exempt from reading tests, and they can take tests in their native language for up to three years.
But that’s not enough.
When students from these groups fail the tests, the consequences can go as far as school districts having to replace teachers and principals. When that happens, the failure is transferred — unfairly — to the students.
As a teacher quoted by the AP said, “It’s made them into scapegoats. ... It’s criminal to treat them this way.”
We couldn’t agree more. But we also don’t think school officials should lose their jobs. Instead, the fault lies with the legislation itself.
Proposed changes to the law are steps in the right direction. According to the AP, one proposal would give schools credit if students, including those with learning disabilities or still learning English, make progress but still fall short of a certain goal.
This, to us, is more realistic. As a superintendent told the AP, “If every student moves forward, isn’t that the key?”