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Obama 'No Child' Redo To Focus On Helping Failing Schools

Black Voice News, News Report, Chris Levister Posted: Mar 24, 2010

San Bernardino City Unified School District has 11 schools rated among the worst 5 percent in the state. How these so-called failing schools will be treated under Americas new education blueprint sent to Congress on Monday illustrates the challenges of boosting student achievement in an era of teacher layoffs, and deep budget cuts.

Add to the challenge of implementing new No Child Left Behind mandates is the growing number of schools shackled by the burdens of unprecedented joblessness, persistent poverty and stubborn crime.

President Barack Obamas revised plan retains the structure and spirit of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Law annual testing and data-driven accountability but adds resources and flexibility to meet new goals.

The thrust of the changes is to lessen the emphasis on yearly improvement and federal prescriptions for failure and instead to focus on broader measures of progress.

Out is the widely disliked measure of adequate yearly progress in reading, math and dropout rates, which were seen as too harsh and arbitrary.

Also out is the demand that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

The Obama administrations new goal: that all students graduate from high school prepared for college or trade school and a career by 2020.

This is an idea whose time has come, said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on a teleconference with reporters on Monday. Behind that, we want to create the next generation of great assessments.

The 2002 NCLB law prescribed penalties for schools that failed to meet adequate yearly progress goals for certain groups of students based on race, ethnicity, income and disabilities.

The result was one-third of all US schools, including many schools deemed successful by other measures, were designated as failing and faced loss of federal funding under NCLB.

By contrast, the Obama plan calls on states to identify their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and take strong measures to upgrade those schools, including firing the principal and teachers.

The blueprint lays the right markers to help us reset the bar for our students and the nation, said, Rep George Miller (D) California, who chairs the Education and Labor Committee.

But critics including some teachers unions who strongly backed Obamas historic election are protesting that teachers in failing schools would lack the authority to make changes. Still some union officials see it as middle ground.

San Bernardino City School District Superintendent Arturo Delgado met with staff Monday to discuss intervention models and how best to conform to new state legislation requiring failing schools in California to close or go through one of three processes Restart:

Turn the school into a charter, Turnaround: Replace the principal and at least half the teaching staff; Transformation replace the principal and reward effective teachers. District spokesperson Linda Bardere says the charter school option is off the table.

The turnaround model and transformation model are the only options under consideration. The District is exploring which model will work best at each school on the list.

She said the changes could cost $500,000 per school to implement.

Schools that implement the changes have until June 1, 2010 to apply for federal School Improvement Grants that could pay up to $2 million per school.

Meanwhile nearly 800 area teachers have received pink slips in recent weeks. March 15 is the annual deadline for school districts to send preliminary layoff notices to teachers and other certified school staff in California. San Bernardino City has sent out 269 notices, Fontana, 187; Rialto, 155; Colton, 141 and Redlands 30.

Many local educators say while President Obamas No Child plan is a good start at boosting achievement, the elephant in the room is the states budget crisis.

With the school district facing another year of deep budget cuts, and layoffs our primary emphasis is preserving jobs. The obstacles facing teachers and administrators can be confusing, frustrating and simply overwhelming, said Rebecca Harper, president of the San Bernardino Teachers Association.

Harpers sobering take reinforces an undisputed assessment: that even with a growing consensus on the No Child law and the need for boosting student achievement clearly there is no easy fix for Americas struggling schools.

Related Articles:

Can a Constitutional Amendment Save California Schools?

Students Question 'Failing' Status of Their Schools

My Wheelchair Cant Hold Me Back, But Budget Cuts Can

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