No Child Left Behind too inflexible, teachers say

AUBURN — An Obama administration official speaking to parents, educators and students at Auburn Middle School on Thursday called for more flexibility in the No Child Left Behind law.

Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Journal Ben L'Hommedieu asks Glenn Cummings what is being done about the high dropout rate of U.S. students during a public forum at Auburn Middle School on Thursday evening. L'Hommedieu, a 12-year-old seventh grader, came to listen to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education talk about No Child Left Behind.

When it comes down to it, nobody likes being called a "failure," said Glen Cummings, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. That's the overall response he has received in the first three stops of a five-stop tour in Maine to solicit public opinion on No Child Left Behind, the federal legislation that sets standards and penalties through statewide testing.

"Putting too much stock in a test to label a kid, school or teacher as failing sends the wrong message," said Luci Merin, director of the Auburn Community Learning Center. "A test is a point in time; it's a snapshot. It's not an end-all judgment of what a child has learned or can do."

The key, as Cummings is discovering from speaking with the public,
is flexibility within the program to reach those high standards.

needs to be some flexibility and the ability not to be labeled as
failures," he said. "What we should be doing in a much more productive way, is
saying this subgroup is failing in this school. What do we — all of
us, the feds, state, local, the community, parents and the teachers —
need to do to stop that from happening?" he said. Also important is
offering the resources necessary to get the students to succeed.

The legislation, which is a 2002 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, affects students from kindergarten through grade 12. Each state has the freedom to set its own standards, which must be met in order to be a success.

And Maine is no slacker.

"Maine has very high standards and we're very proud of that," Cummings said. "Education is a national priority, but it is a state responsibility."

In hopes of creating a common standard nationwide, thus creating all graduates as equals, 46 states and three territories recently signed on to the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers initiative to do just that.

But what about various subgroups of students who may need special help in reaching those high criteria? The ones who may be holding the others back because they can't be "left behind?"

"You shouldn't expect a kid who's been in the country two years to be taking the SATs — in English," said Susan Martin, Lewiston director of English Language and Learning.

Lewiston schools have more than 990 non-native English-speaking students (19 percent of the student population) and Auburn has more 150, said Auburn School Superintendent Tom Morrill. Those students have not had the same extended years of schooling as their English-speaking peers, the majority of whom have been in school since kindergarten.

Martin said she hopes the Obama administration will veer toward a growth model, rather than forcing students to meet a blanket standard which ultimately forces those children to learn rapidly what others have in years.

Other concerns voiced from the audience included the rate of high school dropouts and performance of U.S. schools globally. Many people, including Auburn Middle School language arts teacher Joyce Bucciantini, praised the after-school programs that No Child Left Behind has helped to foster and sponsor, such as the Community Learning Center.

Information gathered by Cummings and others appointed by the Obama administration will be presented to Congress in January.

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 's picture

As a parent with a child who

As a parent with a child who suffers with high functioning autism, I have been frustrated year after year with this "no child" act. When I request that my child be kept back, to have another year under their belt to master the basics which seem to keep getting skipped over, I am told that isn't possible, that our school district will suffer loss of government funds, YADAH YADAH. and every year my child and I struggle through homework which she doesn't understand, and teachers who don't have time to teach her what she should "already know". Its time for a new course of action. Not all children are the same, and trying to make them all fit into the same mold is not only frustrating, its not fair and not right. I'm not asking for special treatment, just that my child be taught what they need to succeed.

 's picture

Blame Superintendents they

Blame Superintendents they ran their budgets into the ground after the Bush administration to appear to be up to code to the learning centers needed in the classroom. This is what the Republicans wanted a good old Stalin like death grip and strangle hold on the educational market and know one seemed to object. Like me there are teachers who want to teach and are damned by the budget short falls and gaps because now that the pro-Conservative movement pushed it they use Nazi like tactics to force others down. Of course those great Conservative minds will never go against that even though some of them know what merit based pay meant in breaking those reins and arresting Superintendents for making false claims and hoaxing grades for funding. Just look at our great Nazi statesman Bolduc who opposed it.

Joseph Ziehm
Lewiston, ME
"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a master in heaven. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" Colossians 4: 1-2

 's picture

NCLB also cut back on

NCLB also cut back on special education in order to push ground rule commons into that environment as emphasized by Howard Gardner the great psychologist standardized testing no longer works. As always we are holding onto a last great gasp in the modern societal ground as we are being trained for Post-Piageten learning techniques, devices, and assessments parents do not understand what it is that we truly do. Piaget brought about sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal operations into the forefront of childhood education. Of course the morons on here are going to scramble and label them a failure anyway. As someone living with high functioning autism (Aspie me lol) it is funny to watch everyone else dwindle away on why education fails without having any prior and common knowledge as to why. Of, course Superintendents and others in administrations make more then teachers even though merit pay investigates those who have stole from their own district and has led to arrests look at how Conservatives railed against it! Lol what a joke wonder what else the backers of NCLB have to say for themselves.

Joseph Ziehm
Lewiston, ME
"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a master in heaven. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" Colossians 4: 1-2


the only use for a

the only use for a politician is for live target practice!the results of 47th are put out by no other than teahers themselfs and union reps not real as far as the tests well the teachers want and want and just Dont want accountability!!!!!!

RONALD RIML's picture

Hawaii Let me guess.


Let me guess. Inundated with thousands of military living on base housing, who then send their children to tax supported public schools. Except, no taxes levied on base housing. The taxpayers of Hawaii have to suck that one up. How does that scenario play out, ChrisUSAF...

When I was a young Sailor - I drank like a Sailor, fought like a Sailor, and screwed like a Sailor. Now that I am old and wise - I have a few scars, but many fond memories.


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