Over the next few years, Yalies who volunteer in New Haven’s public schools will witness the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in January 2002.
At the core of the legislation are provisions to hold states and schools accountable for the progress children make. As a result, underperforming or “failing” schools will be targeted for improvement, corrective action or restructuring.
Ten schools in New Haven have been identified as failing schools. Parents of students in these schools will have the opportunity to transfer their children to a better-performing school. Further, schools that have been designated as failing for two years in a row will be required to provide supplemental services to students who choose to stay.
New Haven Public Schools spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo said the failing designation is based on data from the Connecticut Mastery Test from 1999.
“Since that time, the schools have all improved considerably,” Sullivan-DeCarlo said.
Although Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002, states are not expected to completely conform until 2005. Thomas Murphy, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Education, said the state is expected to meet the federal deadline.
“The implementation has begun, but there are a number of provisions that will take time to accomplish,” Murphy said.
State education officials are currently reviewing the 600-page law. As a result, the No Child Left Behind policies have not yet been implemented in New Haven, Sullivan-DeCarlo said.
Assistant Superintendent Eleanor Osborne said committees have been set up to review the legislation in full in New Haven.
“I’m not sure there’s a clear direction from the federal level to the state level to the district level,” she said.
Although Murphy said the No Child Left Behind Act will have a big impact on New Haven schools, the new law has also faced considerable opposition.
“I don’t think it’s positive. In some cases it’s diversionary, in some places it’s seditious, and in some places it’s just wrong,” said Jonathon Gillette, the director of the Yale College Teacher Preparation program. “The definition of a ‘failing’ school is a politically defined commodity.”
Srikanth Sivashankaran ’04, a coordinator of Dwight Hall’s Education Network, said the legislation regarding failing schools may prove difficult to implement in New Haven.
“This is a climate that already has a lot of school choice, and the better-performing schools are already in high demand,” Sivashankaran said.
New Haven’s school choice programs currently allow children to attend suburban, magnet and charter schools. Murphy said this program already surpasses the new federal requirements, which require that students at failing schools be allowed to transfer.
“If the transfer option is in sync with the public choice program already existing in New Haven public schools, it could be successful,” Sivashankaran said.
The supplemental services provision also echoes efforts already in place in New Haven. Many schools currently use state dollars for after-school and summer programs.
The supplemental services will be selected from a list of providers drawn up by the state Board of Education. They will include both private organizations and for-profit companies.
“That is an area where Yale students could become involved,” Sivashankaran said.