No Child Left Behind gets left behind as schools seek reform | Federal Way board passes resolution

Federal Way schools have joined a growing national movement to end the punitive measures of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act until it is reauthorized or rewritten.

With the passage of the resolution at last Tuesday’s school board meeting, Federal Way Public Schools joined more than 900 other school districts in the country in this attempt to tell Congress to help the nation’s schools.

The far-ranging and reaching No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was passed in 2001 and championed by President George W. Bush’s administration. It required states to establish and meet standards in order to receive federal funding. If those standards are not met, sanctions can be imposed upon districts and schools. If a school is deemed to be “failing” under NCLB, sanctions can range from closing the school outright, to the elimination of staff and other such measures.

Originally scheduled for review in 2007, the often onerous law has been pushed to the back burner as the economy and other broader issues have slammed the country in recent years, leaving states and school districts in an increasingly tenuous position.

The current movement against NCLB is coming down from a national level. The American Association of School Administrators is distributing versions of the resolution passed by FWPS throughout the country. The Washington State Association of School Administrators (WASA) is fully behind the idea, said Dan Steele, assistant executive director for government relations.

“Instead of waiting (for reauthorization), these resolutions are being sent out to say to Congress, No Child Left Behind is flawed,” he said. “Most people agree it’s flawed. (With these resolutions), we’re asking for specific relief from the current act.”

Steele said if relief is not granted from the current NCLB sanctions, that approximately 80,000 schools will be considered failing next year nationwide. In some districts, such as the Racine Unified District in Fredricksburg, Va., the entire district will be considered out of compliance with NCLB if relief is not granted.

“Is our country doing that bad that eight out of ten of our schools are considered failing?” Steele asked.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting in Federal Way, Superintendent Robert Neu also gave a brief synopsis on the resolution.

“This is a national movement basically calling on Congress to do their due diligence on what is arguably considered a failed public policy,” Neu said. In a post meeting interview, Neu elaborated further on his thoughts regarding the national movement and NCLB.

NCLB was a legislation "that had good intentions,” he said. “But, I believe it’s also overly punitive to districts like ours that are diverse. We have children in poverty, children with significant challenges they bring to the schoolhouse door every day, and for all its good intentions, NCLB is flawed in that it punishes districts like ours.”

Neu said he welcomed the effort to attempt to freeze the punitive measures of NCLB in its current form until it has been “thoughtfully rewritten.”

Board director Suzanne Smith said she had been following this issue recently, and felt that the resolution helps strengthen the position of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“This is just another way of showing support for (Duncan) to do his job and give us some relief from these sanctions and these labels that are being put on these schools,” Smith said.

Director Ed Barney summed up the resolution and its motivation succinctly.

“I think it’s long overdue,” he said. “It should have been done at least a year ago, maybe two years ago.”


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