Friday, February 20, 2004

Defusing or delaying that time bomb?

First, the Department of Education graciously allowed some revisions for special ed kids, though some argue it doesn't go far enough. Then this.
    Under the new regulations announced yesterday, states will be permitted to grant a one-year transition period for English-language learners in their first year in U.S. public schools, which means that these students will be temporarily excluded from their schools' test results. At the other end of the performance spectrum, students will continue to be counted as members of the "limited English-proficient" subgroup for two years after they learn English.
Mary at The Left Coaster has written a wonderful big picture view of these new revisions to NCLB.

In California, we still have a problem. According to the LA Times:
    But the new policies, which take effect immediately, will have little, if any, impact in California, where 25% of the 6.2 million public school students are still learning English.

    Most students who are learning English enter the state's schools in kindergarten or first grade — well before third grade, when their test scores count for federal evaluation purposes, state officials said.

    California already has an agreement with the federal Education Department to count students in the limited-English group for three years after they are determined to be fluent in English. State education officials criticized the new regulations.
I know some kids will do fine but is this enough time for the average child who probably lives in a non-English speaking household to do as well as a child who is native born? This doesn't solve the larger problem, although maybe it'll retain some voters for the November election.

Still there's this other thing. A recent poll indicated this:
    In a nationwide survey among 699 parents conducted by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) and sponsored by Results for America, respondents were supportive of the concept of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) but critical of the initiative's punitive terms, especially in relation to their own children's schools.
    "The level of support melts away significantly when they are asked to consider what this could mean specifically in the context of their child's school," says Wayne Russum, ORC's senior research manager.
Checking out those results more closely, the researchers found that one of the things parents really want is smaller class sizes. I wonder what will happen when parents find out what NCLB is really about because it's not about smaller class sizes.

The Department of Education plans to introduce more changes in the next weeks. So what will it be: bandaids or real changes? My unhappy bet will be on the bandaids.