Wednesday, September 08, 2004

No Child Left Behind – Except Mine

An Open Letter to President Bush and Senator Kerry

President Bush and Senator Kerry,

You both support the No Child Left Behind education act, and there is a critical problem with the implementation of NCLB related to students with special needs that requires an urgent response.

Under NCLB, a percentage of all students must prove grade-level proficiency via standardized tests in certain core subjects, regardless of ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or disability. If any one student group (e.g. students with special needs) fails to prove proficiency on any one of 40 tested criteria, the whole school fails to show "adequate yearly progress" and will be penalized. 100% student proficiency is demanded by 2014.

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulates education for students with special needs. Every student with a diagnosed disability or delay has an Individual Education Plan, specifying appropriate educational goals for that student.

NCLB and IDEA are meant to be complimentary pieces of legislation. However, the two federal regulations, as they are interpreted by many states across the nation, are at loggerheads. Students with developmental delays are being tested on material they have not been taught and might be incapable of mastering at an age-appropriate level. Students of normal intelligence with learning disabilities (e.g. dyslexia) who require extra time or other considerations to complete their work are not being granted exceptions. And schools are being penalized for their high failure rates.

This is a very important problem and it needs to be addressed immediately. Federal clarification and oversight are necessary to insure that the students who need the most help are getting it. Blind adherence to standardized tests for all students is serving to exclude those students for whom primary and secondary education is most critical.

Let's not leave more of our children behind.

Kirkwood, MO

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