Our View - What’s in a grade?Area schools recently got their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) report card, otherwise known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP for short). As usual, schools got mixed reports. Cloquet’s Churchill Elementary got top marks, with third-grade students surpassing state averages by close to 20 percent.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Area schools recently got their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) report card, otherwise known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP for short). As usual, schools got mixed reports. Cloquet’s Churchill Elementary got top marks, with third-grade students surpassing state averages by close to 20 percent.
As a whole, the Cloquet School District passed AYP, as did Esko, Cromwell-Wright and Moose Lake. Other Carlton County schools, including Carlton, Barnum and Wrenshall, failed to meet the standards. Parents in at least some of those school districts got letters from the state, explaining what the failure meant.
Really, though, what does it mean?
Does it mean they aren’t good school districts? Absolutely not, they are fine school districts.
Does it mean most of the kids can’t read, or do math at the proper grade level? Again, the answer is no. In most cases, it means that certain populations within the school district failed to make adequate yearly progress.
That’s the gist of the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act, to divide the kids up into different groups based on race, income and whether or not they’re in a special education class and insist that all of those different groups make “adequate yearly progress.” It also mandates that all students must be proficient in both reading and math by 2014.
At its most simple level, it is a noble goal.
In reality, however, it has meant that schools spend more time teaching to a test and are unfairly stigmatized – and sometimes suffer financial consequences – when one or two of these small populations fails to improve, even if the vast majority of the school’s students have fabulous test results.
Not everyone takes tests well. Not every mentally disabled child will learn to read. That’s reality.
Therefore, we applaud the decision by the Minnesota Department of Education to apply for a waiver from NCLB. Getting a waiver won’t mean schools no longer have to maintain high standards and try to educate every child. Hopefully, however, it will mean that the “one-size-fits-all” mentality will go away. A waiver would free states from the 2014 deadline and allow more flexibility in how they measure student achievement.
“We all know it takes far more than a single test to evaluate how well our students and schools are doing,” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius wrote in a recent letter to parents. “All children should do better and better as time goes on – that’s what makes a good school and a good education. Unfortunately, NCLB does not measure schools that way.”
Let’s find a better way.