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How will No Child Left Behind Waiver affect Moore County students?

Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm

The Moore County Schools logoLast Thursday, President Barack Obama released Tennessee and nine other states from some of the strict, sweeping requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The President issued waivers to Tennessee, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oklahoma.

New Mexico applied for the waiver but did not get it, though national news sources report that education officials in that state are still working with the White House to earn exemption approval.

The NCLB exemption gives those states flexibility to design, and execute their own plans for improving student preparation and evaluation.

According to Associated Press (AP) reports, a total of 28 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signaled that they, too, plan to seek waivers.

The states of Pennsylvania, Texas and California have not indicated they will seek a waiver – although they say there is nothing preventing them from doing so at a later date.

What is the No Child Left Behind Act?

George W. Bush proposed and enacted the law in 2001. It received bipartisan support in Congress.

The intention of the 2001 NCLB Act was pretty simple: get American students to perform at grade level in both reading and math by the year 2014.

However, as that deadline looms, educators both locally and across the nation says that the burdens of NCLB outweigh its overall good and complain that it hurts students more than it helps.

 Unfunded Mandates

Critics say the law forces unfunded mandates onto school systems – especially those in small, rural communities like Moore County.

Moore County Director of Schools Chad Moorehead says the unfunded mandate portion of the NCLB act impacted Moore County students, primarily from the state level.

“While local dollars have been spent to ‘fill the gaps’ in certain areas, I believe the state shouldered much of the burden,” said Director Moorehead.

Standardized Tests

Other critics worry about the law’s reliance on standardized tests to gauge performance– claiming that in order to be successful, teachers are forced to focus on “teaching for the test” rather that individualized instruction.

Though he recognizes standardized testing as a necessary evil, Director Moorehead says that so-called “teaching to the test” becomes a problem mainly when teachers feel forced to only cover what the students will be tested on at the end of the year and ignores the teachable moments that arise throughout the year that would allow a teacher to spend time on items that do not appear on the list of standards to be covered.

“Often throughout a school year events occur that would naturally allow a teacher to stop and teach the students about an important aspect of life.  When a teacher feels they must ignore these opportunities or their students may not perform well on a standardized test, we have all lost,” says Director Moorehead.

Director Moorehead explains that the NCLB requirements will basically be replaced by the Race to the Top initiative that Tennessee opted into last year.

The Top initiative utilizes a new system of teacher evaluation, which uses student standardized test scores as half of that measure. However, many teachers in Tennessee teach a subject or grade level that doesn’t yet utilize standardized testing.

The State Department of Education has indicated its plan to install standardized tests for all subjects and grade levels to fix this problem.

“Last fall I asked state officials how this would be funded and I was told that local school districts would be required to purchase these tests.  Moore County cannot afford to do this,” says Director Moorehead.