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Missouri School Offers Glimpse at Emerging Damage of No Child Left Behind Debacle

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Leave my child behind - PLEASE!

Leave my child behind - PLEASE!

“The story of Hanna Woods is being repeated nationwide this fall as thousands of schools fail to meet the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind act.”

So begins a Friday, Dec. 4 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Valerie Schremp Hahn titled “Schools Falling Farther Behind.” In order to grasp what’s happening at the little elementary school known as Hanna Woods thanks to No Child Left Behind (NCLB), here are some facts and figures from the article:

Not Measuring Up
Hanna Woods Elementary is failing to meet federal education standards, even as other schools in the Parkway School District meet the mark.

Elementary students passing state communications arts test

Hanna Woods: 50.3%

Parkway: 64.9%

Federal target: 54.1%

Elementary students passing state math tests

Hanna Woods: 51.3%

Parkway: 60.9%

Federal target: 54.1%

Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Hundreds are failing
The federal No Child Left Behind law established goals for students to pass state exams. By 2014, all are supposed to pass the tests. Schools also are judged by the performance of students in subgroups such as special education students and students from low-income families.

— Of the nearly 800 Missouri and Illinois schools in the St. Louis area, 417 are failing to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind.

— Like Hanna Woods, at least 118 have not met standards for four years.

— At least 44 schools face even more severe sanctions.

— Of 111 area school districts in Missouri and Illinois, 73 are failing to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind.

Sources: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Illinois State Board of Education.

As you can see from the info above, half the students are flunking the “communication arts” test; half of the St. Louis area schools are flunking “No Child Left Behind,” and a whopping two out of three school districts in the same area are failing. And just in case you suffer from “that’s not happening in MY child’s school-itis,” keep this telling paragraph in mind as you read on: “The [NCLB] law is affecting more schools like Hanna Woods in the seemingly successful suburbs. And it’s affecting more districts with good reputations like Parkway, where most graduates go to college and where the district ranks fourth-highest in the state on ACT scores.”

Back to poor Hanna Woods, now sunk to NCLB  “Level 3, Corrective Action” status. The school had to create a detailed improvement plan for the state. “In dissecting how the school functions, administrators said they were alarmed to discover how much time students spend on nonacademic tasks.”

The result? Among other changes, the fifth-grade bus monitors who used to miss the last 15 minutes of class each day were replaced by teachers. Visits from local artists that used to occur several times a year will now occur once. Instead of birthday kidlets going to the principal’s office for their special birthday pencils, the principal takes the pencils to the classrooms. More time on task! More time on task! “Meantime, teachers are spending more time examining data, making sure their students are learning what they should, and the district has stepped up faculty training.”

These actions have parents worried, at least the 70 of them who attended a PTO meeting to ask questions. The principal told them, “The whole goal is to maintain the sanctity and the quiet of the classrooms so students can learn.” At least the parents got something of an answer; school officials wouldn’t let reporters visit the classrooms.

On another St. Louis region front, Fort Zumwalt School District Superintendent Bernie DuBray “tells parents that the district is still recognized by the state for its excellent performance and that it’s difficult to meet the standards of the federal law.” Say what?

One parent with two children attending Hanna Woods is afraid NCLB will ultimately ruin what’s good at the school, and pretty much foresees the future. “As the standards of NCLB increase each year, she said, more schools will face the kinds of sanctions that have reshaped Hanna Woods. ‘Within a few years, they’re all going to be at Level 3,’ she said.”

Do you know where your child’s school stands in the NCLB debacle? Remember, the school could be receiving accolades from the state (what you will be told), yet flunking NCLB standards and instituting “federal government repairs” (what you might not be told). It could be happening in your own backyard.

If you’re thinking about homeschooling and have half a lick of sense, I guarantee you can do a better job than this – in half the time. And there’s no time like the present. Things are going downhill in the public school system faster than you can say, “Just leave my child behind – PLEASE!”

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