Local News

Complications May Hinder Success Of 'No Child Left Behind'

Posted February 25, 2004 7:36 a.m. EST

— Wake County schools face a logistical challenge worthy of an advanced calculus class.

Administrators have to reassign thousands of students.

Now, a program meant to help kids could create even more complications for the student shuffle.

Many school leaders like the concept. But they are frustrated by the implentation of

"No Child Left Behind."

There is confusion. Plus, there are questions of fairness in how the math, reading and teaching standards are determined.

This year,

19 Wake County schools could face consequences under the law,

which could further complicate the issue of what students go where.

About 85 percent of students at Hodge Road Elementary meet end-of-grade testing requirements. It is a school of distinction.

But, two subgroups of children, including some with learning disabilities, did not reach specific progress standards. So, under "No Child Left Behind" and its

adequate yearly progress

provision, the whole school fails.

There are nine categories of students potentially identified as subgroups under "No Child Left Behind" legislation: white, black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Multiracial, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficient, and students with disabilities. If there are more than 40 students in a school in any of these groups, then that subgroup is measured under NCLB.

In addition, each school must test at least 95 percent of all students in each subgroup in order to meet this new standard. If even one subgroup does not meet the new measurement standard, the entire school is deemed not to have made annual yearly progress.

"I don't think it's fair," parent Catherine Byrd said. "It's ridiculous. I mean you can't blame a whole school because one or two students didn't make it through."

Said assistant superintendent Cindi Jolly: "It's an all-or-nothing situation with 'No Child Left Behind.'"

Jolly said Hodge Road and other schools that serve high numbers of low-income students face sanctions if they fall short of standards again this year.

The first consequence is parents must be given at least two other school choices in the system.

"The parents should have the option to take their child and put them somewhere they're getting that free and appropriate education," parent Angela Clement said.

Said Jolly: "Obviously, one of the complications will be the short turnaround time."

Since schools will not know until May or June whether they make the grade, administrators and parents will have just a matter of weeks to work out transfers.

On top of the system's massive reassignment plan, that could create confusion when it comes to school capacity and transportation patterns.

Hodge Road students, for instance, could face extra long bus rides if they choose to go to other schools.

"Are we concerned?" Jolly said. "Yes, because we have to have contingency plans developed, and we'll have to develop transportation routes."

Wake County school leaders hope most parents will decide to keep their children in their base schools. But they are working on contingency plans, just in case.