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Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:10 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Iuliana Petre

Killeen Daily Herald

On the seventh anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, education analysts from the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., announced on Tuesday that NCLB has been a “hugely expensive failure, that cost the nation well over $100 billion in federal spending, while no results can be fully attributed to (it).”

Local school districts said the difficulty of NCLB is it is an added accountability system that conflicts in standards with other pre-existing accountability systems.

Neal McCluskey, an education analyst at the Cato Institute — a free-market “think tank” in Washington — said that the problem with NCLB is that it demanded that school districts show academic improvements in exchange for federal funding.

“The law is divided against itself because with the need to show improvements in academics, the federal government placed the development of tests and standards on the shoulders of the states. Some states already had low standards to begin with or they changed the standards. They kept the bar low or moved it lower so that everyone could jump over it,” McCluskey said, adding that “we haven’t really seen any improvement in achievement. It ended up kind of being a big lie.”

However, school districts have done their best “to satisfy the compliance requirements as well as address the spirit of NCLB as it relates to increasing student achievement,” said Leslie Gilmore, the spokesperson for the Killeen Independent School District.

And Copperas Cove school district officials commented on the contradiction of NCLB and the numerous other accountability systems: the TAKS, a state system; AYP, a federal system; state performance-based monitoring; and financial rating.

“What school districts struggle with the most is that we have so many accountability systems. And schools don’t have a problem with accountability. Where we struggle is with inconsistencies,” said Dr. Bobby Ott, the deputy superintendent of the Copperas Cove Independent School District, adding that the biggest inconsistency across the board, for all school districts, has involved special education and the AYP.

“The big fundamental flaw is whenever you start crossing accountability systems you start crossing laws and policies,” Ott said, explaining that NCLB contradicts the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which clearly states that it is the responsibility of the Admission, Review & Dismissal Committee to make educational decisions for students with disabilities.

By law, the ARD Committee — consisting of people who best know students, such as parents, teachers, therapists and others who work directly with the student — make decisions about what assessments are most appropriate for the student given the student’s specific disability, Ott said.

NCLB, while it does not contradict IDEA regarding decision-making authority for students with disabilities, does make a predetermined decision regarding how many students can be assessed with specific TAKS.

“NCLB gives a predetermined cap on how many students with disabilities can test and not enough are taking these assessments. That’s the real story behind the AYP issue in Texas. Most of the school districts that didn’t make it were because of the special education piece,” Ott said, adding that this sends a conflicting and confusing message to districts who are struggling with how to make good decisions for students with disabilities.

“I’m surprised that this hasn’t been challenged legally. That is absolutely the largest contradiction we’re dealing with. How can we provide an education that meets four or five accountability standards? That’s a very difficult challenge,” Ott said.

Contact Iuliana Petre at ipetre@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7469.

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