A majority of Connecticut’s school superintendents and principals believe the state and federal governments need to increase the funding and adjust the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act in order for the law to have a positive impact on the state’s public schools, according to a report released this month that was produced in part by Yale Law School students.
The report, which is the first such survey of the No Child Left Behind Act in Connecticut, shows school heads believe the law’s assessment measures, strict regulations, and what they described as inadequate federal funding put its effectiveness in jeopardy. Still, the report by the Yale Law School Legislative Advocacy Clinic and Connecticut Voices for Children, a statewide education advocacy group, offers suggestions on how to better implement the act, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2001.
In a two-tiered approach, the groups solicited comments from all of Connecticut’s superintendents and principals, and conducted an in-depth investigation of the law’s implementation in four state school districts: New Haven, West Hartford, Meriden and New Milford.
The report found that 88 percent of state superintendents said they are concerned that the law’s required annual progress reports are not appropriate or achievable. In addition, about 64 percent of superintendents said they did not believe the law would improve the quality of the teacher workforce. But an overwhelming majority of superintendents, some 97 percent, said the federal government is not providing adequate funding to implement the education law.
“We talked to educators across the state and we heard from them overwhelmingly that the act was having a profound impact on the way they educated children,” Legislative Advocacy Clinic survey organizer Eliza Leighton LAW ’05 said.
But State Rep. Ken Bernhard ’66, a Republican from Westport, said he thinks the No Child Left Behind Act was designed to ensure that students receive the necessary education to become able members of society.
“The act has merit in that we want to know that students who are advancing in their grades are meeting minimum standards and that we do not graduate students that are not prepared to compete in a very competitive world,” Bernhard said.
Avni Gupta LAW ’05, another survey organizer, said the results show that a majority of Connecticut school officials are not concerned with the philosophy behind the act but rather with the implementation and funding of the act in state schools.
“People understood that the act as a big picture was beneficial, but they wanted to look at how it played out in their own school districts,” Gupta said
The report found the law’s measurement of yearly progress was flawed in that it not only fails to track students over time, but also sets unrealistic requirements. In addition, the law did not fairly assess the performance of special education students or those for whom English is a second language, according to the report. It also found that one of the biggest problems in implementing the act is a lack of federal funding.
“It is an incredibly underfunded federal mandate, which must be funded at the state level,” Leighton said.
New Milford Interim School Superintendent JeanAnn Paddyfote, who said the state has had problems implementing the act, said conducting annual progress reports for students in special education is problematic. She said that when schools do not meet the demands of the act, the money to improve resources has to come out of the tax payer’s pockets.
“The No Child Left Behind Act is very prescriptive, a big challenge which requires resources, yet the government gives no money to the schools,” she said.
But Ellen Scalettar, a senior policy advisor with Connecticut Voices for Children, said Connecticut has been better off than many states in implementing the act because of its thoughtful test-taking process and strong accountability system already in place.
The survey did offer many suggestions for fixing what it perceived federal problems, including a better calculation of cohort numbers and a method of broadening the scope of the annual progress report determination measures.
“I think they need to add some more indicators in there to give them a more robust picture of what is going on in the schools,” Gupta said.
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