NCLB Changes and NYC DOE News
Education News Update November 24, 2015
By Danielle Bonnici
No Child Left Behind…Revised
The New York Times reports that the controversial No Child Left Behind Act is getting revised for the first time since it was signed into law fourteen years ago. Although Democrats and Republicans agreed that the law had become onerous for schools and for students, they have been unable to reach a mutually acceptable revision of the law for eight years.
In some ways, it’s the same…
The agreement maintains the federal requirement for yearly exams in reading and math from 3 through 12 grades. Schools will also be required to break down scores by race, economic and disability status, and to publicize these scores.
The Good News Is…
The revisions free schools from punitive measures previously imposed upon schools whose students score poorly on the exams. Individual states and counties can determine their own actions in regards to low scores, and there are no deadlines for meeting reading and math benchmarks. The agreement does allow for intervention with the lowest 5% of schools, and requires high schools with poor performance and low graduation rates to develop plans for improvement.
The revised law also forbids the Education Secretary from sanctioning academic standards, for example, the Common Core. The only stipulation is that schools implement academically challenging standards in keeping with college entrance requirements.
Yay for Teachers!
The changes also remove the proviso that states must evaluate teachers using test scores or otherwise. Mary Kusler of the NEA says that teachers’ unions are “absolutely elated” by the changes, and hopes that it will lead to less testing. Her wish may come true—Senator Bennet of Colorado wrote an amendment that would give states the power to limit the time spent on standardized tests. It seems the winds of change are finally blowing in regards to tests, evaluations, and standards.
Diversity is the Hot Topic…
The New York Times also reports that in an increasing effort to diversify NYC schools, seven unzoned elementary schools will be allowed to reserve space for children who are on welfare, are ELLs, or who have imprisoned parents. Each school can reserve 20% to 60% of their seats for such students, the majority of whom are Black and Hispanic.
This new program developed from principal recommendations to the Department of Education, and comes at a time with Mayor DiBlasio faces a growing call for more diversity in the schools. Read the Times article.
The geographic zoning of NYC schools effectively makes city schools among the most segregated in the nation. Despite pressure to diversify, plans to rezone schools are repeatedly meet with opposition. A recent proposal to redraw districts in Manhattan and Brooklyn outraged white middle class parents whose children would be sent to low-income, Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, with corresponding low performing schools.
Both Mayor DiBlasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña are aware of the challenges of changing school zones, and are hesitant to force families to make the change. However, Ms. Fariña is hopeful that this program can be successful: “Students learn from the diverse experiences and cultures of their fellow students, and it’s important that our schools match the diversity of our City…I’m hopeful that these changes will help serve as a model for schools across the City.”
While many of the schools involved in the program are excited for the change and the diversity it will bring to their school population, there remains the crucial question of “How can we do more?”
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