July 10, 2008

Schools Give NCLB Goal a Failing Grade

By stacey becker

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wis. - The ultimate goal of No Child Left Behind has some school districts questioning the feasibility of the federally mandated initiative.

That goal requires every school district to have 100 percent of its students proficient in reading and math by 2014.

"The whole premise behind No Child Left Behind is a great utopian goal," said Drew Johnson, superintendent of the Prairie Du Chien School District. "It's just not going to happen on a schoolwide basis. You're always going to have children that struggle to make the gain."

The rural school district faced its own struggling children during the 2007-08 school year.

Although the district was able to meet the adequate yearly progress of NCLB, a majority of special-education students at Bluff View Intermediate School did not and the school was named a "failing school" on the latest state progress report.

"We're proud of them," Johnson said. "They made a lot of gains, but they just didn't make the 7 percent (adequate yearly progress.)"

Unlike urban school districts, rural school districts deal with sometimes dramatic fluctuations within subgroups.

"We have great fluctuation from one year to the next," said Ed Klamfoth, superintendent of the Edgewood-Colesburg (Iowa) School District.

The one subgroup that many districts struggle with is the special- education subgroup.

Joan Wick, Prairie Du Chien special-education director and BA Kennedy School principal, said students must be two grade levels below their peers to qualify for special-education classes, yet those students are expected to meet the same progress as the general- education students.

"It's a double-edged sword," Wick, the former Bluff View Intermediate principal, said. "They're doing the best they can."

Although there are some concerns with the ultimate goal of NCLB, many rural school districts agree that the initiative has placed a greater focus on students.

"It's forced schools to really think about what they're doing for their students," Klamfoth said. "By and large, for us, it's been good."

The somewhat controversial initiative might be good for some, but for many it seems like a fantastical goal.

"That's what everybody aspires to make sure that the students are progressing," said Dale Greimann, superintendent of the Galena (Ill.) School District. "That's a noble wish, but it really seems to be an impossibility."

Originally published by stacey becker TH staff writer/[email protected]

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