Accountability, choice, information, qualifications and
flexibility are the themes of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
But the law, passed in January 2001, has been met with mixed
reviews by educators locally and across the country.
Accountability, choice, information, qualifications and flexibility are the themes of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But the law, passed in January 2001, has been met with mixed reviews by educators locally and across the country.

Some fear the federalization of education, more testing for students and meeting the act’s stringent requirements. Others like its accountability aspect and making sure there is professional development of teachers and teacher’s aides. Many state educators agree the requirements will be difficult to meet with looming budget cuts.

“A lot is still up in the air,” said Liz Talbot, special programs coordinator with the San Benito County Office of Education. “There will definitely be more accountability because schools will have to make adequate yearly progress for all subgroups. … It will encourage schools to focus their efforts and look at data to determine which groups are low and target their efforts.”

The act’s themes include increasing accountability, giving parents a choice as to where they send their students, increasing qualifications for teachers and teacher’s aides, continuously notifying parents of a school’s progress and increasing flexibility of local control.

“We believe education is a national priority and a local responsibility,” President George Bush states on the NCLB Web site.

Adequate Yearly Progress

A term that has already begun to haunt administrators and teachers, Adequate Yearly Progress, is a means of holding schools receiving Title I funds from the federal government accountable based on standards tests. It holds that all schools make progress every year on tests, including every subgroup at the school.

In California, AYP will be based on the STAR test, a writing assessment for fifth and seventh graders and the California High School Exit Exam, Talbot said. If a school fails to make AYP for two straight years, it will be placed under an improvement program to be held accountable.

Talbot presented this information to the Hollister School District Board last week. With the new AYP requirements, none of the district’s eight schools would have met AYP for two years in a row. Four would not have made it for 2000-01 and five for 2001-02.

After two years of not meeting schoolwide and sub-group growth targets, a school is placed in year one of Program Improvement, which includes revising the school plan, notifying parents that students can move to a non-PI school and allocating money toward professional development.

In year two, schools have to set up agreements with supplemental service providers. Year three sees corrective action which can include replacing school staff with contract agreements or implementing a new curriculum or extending the school day or year. In year four, the state will intervene and the state will take over the school in year five.

By focusing on AYP for all subgroups, Talbot said NCLB will make schools look at all children.

“Sometimes, we put all our efforts to low-achieving students and the higher-achieving students are not doing so well,” she said. “It forces us to look at all students. That’s what No Child Left Behind is all about.”

All students must meet the “proficient level” by 2013-14, according to NCLB. Statisticians have said this isn’t possible, said Peter Gutierrez, assistant superintendent of the HSD.

“If we could do it, we already would have,” Gutierrez said.

Also stipulated in the act is that 95 percent of all students in all subgroups be tested. In the past, parents of special education students would receive waivers so the students wouldn’t have to take the test, she said.

“This is not letting anybody slide,” she said.

However, Talbot and Gutierrez said the state is in good shape because it has been using the Academic Performance Index and has aligned state standards.

“We already have our standards in place. In many ways, we’re ahead of the program,” Talbot said.

“Highly qualified” teachers

By 2005-06, all students will be taught by “highly qualified” teachers, according to the act.

This also applies to paraprofessionals, or teacher’s aides, Talbot said. Paraprofessionals hired after Jan. 8, 2002 must have a high school diploma and two years of study at an institution of higher learning or hold an associates degree or higher or pass a rigorous test that demonstrates ability to teach reading and writing to students.

“Research has shown that the more highly qualified the teacher, the higher the achievement of students,” Talbot said.

This is the reason behind pushing for more qualified teachers, Talbot said.

Gutierrez questions the definition of a “highly qualified” teacher. School districts across the state, the county and even credentialing institutions struggle with getting qualified teachers into the classrooms, he said.

“It’s quite a task. I feel pretty good being in California,” he said. “Professional development is the key.”

Parent notification

Parent notification is a big part of NCLB. The act is set up to allow parents to have more information and choice about their child’s school.

“Notification of parents is about getting parents more involved with the education of their children,” Talbot said.

There are many instances where parents will be notified about schools – when schools do not make their AYP goals, if a teacher or paraprofessional has not been designated as highly qualified, when schools are designated Program Improvement and what actions the school proposes to make. Parents are also given the choice of moving their child to a non-Program Improvement school or transferring from a “persistently dangerous” school under the act.

The transfers are at the school district’s expense, something Gutierrez said will be difficult to fund because of state budget cuts. Also, funding usually is designated for certain areas, so schools would have to find the appropriate source to pay for busing if necessary, he said.

And, all states are required to submit plans on how they will adhere to the act in May. The plans have to be passed by the federal government, Talbot said.

While the requirements seem hard to meet, Talbot said there are benefits.

“I think it will be helpful in many ways, it’s just that it’s new,” she said. “It’s difficult because every time you turn around, there’s a new requirement.”

To learn more about the No Child Left Behind Act, go to or

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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