Tag Archives: No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind Waivers – The Beginning of the End?

In February, 11 states were granted waivers from some parts of the No Child Left Behind education reform law after they agreed to continue to raise standards and accountability but with a more flexible approach.

“We’ve offered every state the same deal: We’ve said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards,” President Obama said then in a New York Times article.

Since NCLB was signed into law by President Bush in 2001, many educators, parents and students have argued that its stringent standards took away the creativity and flexibility needed in classrooms. In their minds, classrooms are becoming so focused on reaching goal numbers on the tests that other areas are ignored or neglected.

The 11 states receiving waivers are: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

As of the end of February, 26 additional states and the District of Columbia had already formally submitted waiver requests to the U.S. Department of Education, according to a U.S. Department of Education press release.

“The best ideas to meet the needs of individual students are going to come from the local level. Like the first round of waiver applicants, these plans will protect children, raise the bar and give states the freedom to implement reforms that improve student achievement,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in the release.

Has your state received a NCLB waiver? How has NCLB affected your classroom?

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Class Size – Bursting at the Seams

Most research has proven over the years that the smaller the class size, the better overall performance of students. Reducing class sizes was a priority of the No Child Left Behind Act, but the economic downturn and financial woes for many public school districts have made it difficult for schools to improve the teacher-to-student ratio.

According to a recent New York Times article, schools in New York City anticipate an increase in class size this year. The same is true for schools across the nation where budget cuts and reductions in staff have left teachers packing more students into their classrooms.

My daughter’s school made teacher cuts at the end of 2010-2011 school year that have resulted in larger class sizes for some grade levels. The biggest hit was first grade, where the number of grade-level teachers was reduced from five to four. Each teacher has an average of seven more students when compared to last year. I applaud the teachers as they’ve handled the change beautifully. Still, the classrooms seem cramped, with the lack of storage and addition of desks.

Most states have policies in place that limit the number of students allowed in each class. Check out this map at Education Week to see your state’s limits.

Have you seen an increase in class size in your district? What challenges do you face because of the larger class sizes?

Are We Neglecting Our High Achievers?

Will top achieving students in early grades maintain that edge by the time they graduate high school? According to a recent study, many won’t.

A Thomas B. Fordham Institute study finds that 30 to 50 percent of America’s best students fail to maintain their elite performance over time. The study followed 120,000 students and measured their progress in reading and math starting in third grade. Each of the “high flyers” in the study originally scored at or above the 90th percentile when compared with their peers.

Researchers have questioned whether policies like “No Child Left Behind” are neglecting the needs of these elite students.

Said Fordham president Chester E. Finn, Jr. in a recent press release: “If America is to remain internationally competitive, secure and prosperous, we need to maximize the potential of all our children, including those at the top of the class. Today’s policy debate largely ignores this ‘talented tenth.’ This study shows that we’re paying a heavy price for that neglect, as so many of our high flyers drift downward over the course of their academic careers.”

What does your school do to encourage development of its top-achieving students?

Back to School Tips for Teachers

Back to school jitters aren’t just for students. Teachers get anxious too, wondering how they’ll mesh with new students, get organized in time for the first day and meld national standards into their own style of teaching. For new teachers, the pressure can be even more consuming.

Scholastic Corporation, a well-known children’s book publishing company, has developed a New Teacher Survival Guide, with tips on everything from setting up your classroom and first day ice breakers to frequently asked questions and free printables. Don’t let the title fool you – it’s a great resource for seasoned teachers, too.

Do you remember your first day as a teacher? How did it go? What advice do you have for new teachers?

Reading Struggles Identified Earlier

Third grade reading level is considered an important indicator in a child’s future educational success. But preparing a good reader doesn’t start there – schools across the nation are identifying struggling readers as early as preschool.

One goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is that all children can read at or above grade level by the end of 3rd grade, a time legislators recognize as being an important point in a young student’s educational career. According to a national study conducted by Annie E. Casey Foundation Center for Demographic Analysis, students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma when compared to proficient readers. An Education Week article took a closer look at some of the most recent states to adopt legislation that require schools to diagnose reading difficulties in the grades leading up to 3rd.

In Utah, a new law requires students in kindergarten through 3rd grade to undergo reading assessments three times during the school year. Parents must receive the results and interventions are provided where needed. Similar laws were recently put in place in Arizona and Oklahoma. In addition, many cities and school districts are adopting their own policies in hopes of producing better readers.

What is your district’s approach on reading? Do you have any tips for young readers?