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Wed September 3, 2003
New school standard may be flawed
By Matt Hackworth
KANSAS CITY – The No Child Left Behind act requires states to set increasingly difficult standards from year to year, so schools can fully comply with the act by 2014. But some, like the Missouri School Board association's Brent Ghan, say Missouri's standards are set too high. "The state board of education has defined proficiency here in Missouri that's the level we're all striving to achieve much higher than most other states. Proficiency here in MO means above grade level. So, ultimately all students must perform at above grade level in order to satisfy requirements of No Child Left behind."
Missouri based the standards on its assessment, or MAP scores, which were already in place when No Child left behind passed Congress. Missouri Assistant Education Commissioner Bert Schulte says that a high benchmark might not be a bad thing:
"By having the performance levels high, that enabled the numbers, uh the percentages, required to meet the first year of adequate yearly progress, to be a bit lower than they otherwise might have been. I think the real complication with No Child left behind comes with the areas that could cause a school not to make adequate yearly progress."
Schulte estimates there are 40 ways a school could fail to meet the standard. For example, some students are placed in subgroups for race or low income and if those groups fail to perform well, the whole school building may not meet proficiency. Independence School Superintendent Jim Hinson says the failure of just a few can have large impact:
"We had one building in our district that did not make adequate yearly progress therefore the whole district did not make adequate yearly progress, and we don't feel like that's a true reflection of what's going on in our district."
Hinson says he's frustrated by the No Child Left Behind Act and the state standards designed to guide schools along into compliance. Other large districts in the area, including Kansas City and Lee's Summit, also failed to meet the state guideline, and eventually that could come with a consequence. School officials eventually will be required to offer tutoring services or replace personnel if they fail to meet the yearly goal. And even though the state sets the standard for yearly achievement, officials say there's little wiggle room to make changes under the federal system.