No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal legislation was passed in 2001 and became law in early 2002.
The act was designed “to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility and choice, so that no child is left behind.” But NCLB has proven to be anything but flexible, according to Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and many school district superintendents across the state.
With Kentucky only meeting 52 percent or 13 of 25 target goals for NCLB and not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reading or math benchmarks in the latest testing assessments, Holliday has requested a waiver from the U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for more flexibility in NCLB accountability for the state.
“While NCLB had the right vision, it’s time to revisit the measurement system required by the law,” Holliday commented in a Kentucky Department of Education news release on Friday.
One local school superintendent, Bo Matthews of Barren County, is also concerned, especially since Holliday is questioning whether the NCLB system is fair, valid or reliable.
“When my boss, the commissioner of education, makes a statement to that degree, you know it brings into some question what my response as superintendent ... needs to be when addressing a total, school-wide improvement plan,” Matthews said.
None of the five school districts in the coverage area met all of their NCLB target goals and only Metcalfe County made AYP in math as a district. High school performance for NCLB and AYP caused the main deficits for all districts except Caverna where CHS met 100 percent of target goals and achieved AYP in reading and math.
In NCLB results, the Barren County district met 6 of 13 target goals or 46.2 percent and did not achieve AYP in reading or math.
All schools in the district except Park City Elementary (8 of 10) and Barren County High School (4 of 10) achieved 100 percent of their target goals.
With all but one of the elementaries meeting goals for the last two years, Matthews wants to acknowledge points of celebration at those schools, but also wants to make sure that plans are in place to address possible negative outcomes down the road – to “look for the positives, but address the negatives.”
“We need to develop action plans to address a future trend that might be making itself become visible,” he said.
Results at the middle school are also to be touted, Matthews said. BCMS met 10 of 10 targets and AYP overall.
“Certainly, this is a year we have reason to celebrate,” he said.
But numbers at the high school pulled the down the district’s performance.
“It’s definitely a cause for concern, but you have to take it for what it really means,” Matthews said. “We have this totally conflicting data. Are we really talking about the same high school?”
Matthews pointed to BCHS’s successes with the Early College Magnet program, nationally recognized AP and dual credits initiatives, and ACT and College/Career Readiness scores.
“I understand accountability. I just don’t want to undermine the success of individual students,” he said. “... Absolutely, we need to respond to the numbers, but a one-year number or target that is not hit in my view is not a cause for alarm. It’s a cause for evaluation. ... A school can improve. The issue is that the target moves as well. I feel like the case has already been made that the high school and the district, regardless of the assessment data, is still moving in a positive direction. ... The struggle is that they continually change the system we use to monitor students.”