December 20, 2014

No Child Left Behind adequate yearly progress standards ‘not realistic’

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By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Chittenden South Supervisory Union schools—which include Williston schools and Champlain Valley Union High School—failed to make federally mandated “adequate yearly progress” this year, but they’re in good company. Not a single school in Vermont earned a passing grade on the strict No Child Left Behind requirements that school officials say are unreachable.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools are measured annually by students’ scores on standardized tests. Every three years, expectations for student proficiency have been raised. This year, schools are required to meet the maximum level of requirements—every child in the school, regardless of ability, must score at a “proficient” level in reading and math.

That means that if one child in any school scores below proficient on a New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP, exam, the school must be identified as “low performing” under federal law, wrote Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont Secretary of Education, in a memo to parents and caregivers.

“The Vermont Agency of Education does not agree with this federal policy, nor do we agree that all of our schools are low performing,” Holcombe wrote. “This policy does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being. Further, it takes our focus away from other measures that give us more meaningful and useful data on school effectiveness.”

Holcombe added that Vermont consistently ranks among the top education systems in national and global studies.

“It is not realistic to expect every single tested child in every school to score as proficient,” she said. “Some of our students are very capable, but may have unique learning needs that make it difficult for them to accurately demonstrate their strengths on a standardized test.”

This is the sixth year Williston School District has failed to make adequate yearly progress under federal guidelines.

In a letter sent out to parents in the school district, Chittenden South Supervisory Union Superintendent Elaine Pinckney informed parents that CSSU schools had not met adequate yearly progress standards in reading and math—required by law—but directed parents to Holcombe’s letter.

“With or without NCLB and the unfortunate labeling of schools as ‘low performing,’ CSSU has been and continues its commitment to ongoing improvement of student performance and the learning experience for all of our students,” Pinckney told parents. “This is what we strive to achieve every day.”

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