DIXFIELD — Superintendent Tom Ward believes the 2003 federal No Child Left Behind Act was the right idea, but the requirements are virtually impossible to meet.
“The New England states were so far ahead (of many other states) and we had to improve more. Some other states were able to show growth, but because we were so ahead, it is really difficult for us,” he said. “We had to set benchmarks that were unattainable.”
The state of Maine is one of several that has petitioned for a waiver from the education law.
“If this law is waived, it will give us the flexibility to continue our efforts for improvement but with more reasonable standards,” he said.
The No Child Left Behind Act calls for all students to meet certain standards in subgroups such as student attendance, the scores of economically disadvantaged and those with disabilities, and those with limited English proficiency.
The directive to meet NCLB standards has also led to many teachers throughout the nation teaching to the test.
“These are unrealistic expectations. Students get a more well-rounded education without the pressure of teaching to the test,” he said.
Several schools in RSU 10 have been put on Continuous Improvement Priority Schools status, meaning they have not met the NCLB targets for at least two years in a row. Because these schools are on the list of not meeting the NCLB standards, Ward said the district receives numerous staff development assistance.
“My major frustration with NCLB is that more and more schools have been made to feel they are failing,” Ward said.
According to a news release issued by state Department of Education on Monday, the number of Maine schools that have failed to make adequate yearly progress has increased from 137 in 2010 to 223 this year.
At RSU 10 those schools are Meroby, Dirigo and Hartford/Sumner elementary schools, and Mountain Valley Middle School.
If Maine does succeed in getting a waiver from NCLB, that doesn’t let RSU 10 or any other school in the state off the hook, Ward said. Each school must also be accountable for the education provided to students.
Ward said RSU 10 already follows the so-called national common core standards, and is working with the state to devise a method for educational accountability, including devising methods for improved teacher evaluation and student assessment and achievements.
The state must devise this accountability system, using input from Maine’s school districts, as part of the waiver application, according to the DOE news release.
Plans are to submit Maine’s application by mid-February. That date, according to the release, will give Maine a chance to develop a proposal and put it into place for the 2012-13 school year.
RSU 10, like other districts, will devote a considerable amount of time to working with the state on its application. It will also make a presentation to the Maine School Board Association’s annual conference on Oct. 27-28.
There, a team of five RSU 10 staff members will present the district’s progress on its remedial academic instruction, behavioral program and digital citizenship (to combat bullying).
“These all impact student achievement,” Ward said. “The NCLB idea was good, but not realistic.”