Tuesday, September 07, 2004

No Child Left Behind - Except Mine (draft 1)

President Bush is pleased as punch about his "No Child Left Behind" education act. Senator Kerry says that he supports the NCLBA - with a few modifications. Nothing on his website suggests that students with disabilities fall into his category for needed modifications. This was originally to be an open letter to both Kerry and Bush letting them know my most pressing concern about NCLB, but it seems that I'm not yet calm enough to write a cogent letter.

Under No Child Left Behind, a certain percentage of all students (regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or disability must pass standardized tests in order for the school to keep its federal funding. Well, duh. Obviously this pressures schools to divest themselves of students who aren't performing up to grade level.

Each student with a diagnosed disability has a federally required Individual Education Plan (IEP) with realistic goals for that child given her or his special needs. Two federal mandates are clashing here.

Regardless of a child's special needs, regardless of what the IEP specifies as appropriate target educational goals for each student, all students are tested equally under No Child Left Behind. And if kids with special needs aren't passing, then the school is assessed serious penalties.

Hello?!! Why aren't people talking about this? Why aren't people enraged? We don't like to think about disabled kids. Well, wake up, people! This could be your child. We're not just talking about poor black babies from elsewhere who were born addicted to crack. We're also talking about very intelligent white kids from the suburbs who have dyslexia or some other learning disability and require extended time for standardized tests. And we're talking about kids with Down syndrome, like my Ellie. This is not something that we can ignore. This is something we have to address - now - before more children get left behind.

The students who need the most help are the ones being pushed toward the door, and that is simply not right.

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