Local News

No Child Left Behind May Be Linked To Rise In Long-Term School Suspensions

Posted March 9, 2004 4:04 a.m. EST

— No Child Left Behind

is designed to raise the performance of school children by raising the bar on test scores, but state lawmakers are concerned that may be a motivating factor behind the number of long-term suspensions.

No Child Left Behind takes the state's accountability program a step further and requires all students to make passing grades by the year 2014. Some critics argue that some low-performing students could be suspended to prevent them from taking tests.

"If you've got a student that's potentially not going to test well at all, the temptation is always there -- the temptation could be there -- for someone to discard that student or send that student to another school, so test scores will not be pulled down in that school," said Rep. Alex Warner, D-Cumberland.

Dr. Jim Causby, former superintendent of Johnston County schools, denies accusations that pressure to perform motivates some principals to suspend students.

"We know that schools are, by far, the safest place that students can be. They are safer than being on the streets, safer than walking on Main Street," he said. "But we also know that students that enter our schools sometimes that do things that could be dangerous to other students and that needs to be addressed."

Causby presented statistics from Johnston County schools at the state Legislature Tuesday. Of 23,500 students in the school system, only 98 students were suspended last year.

Even if performance is a factor, state consultant Brad McMillan said it should not be.

"For every student they send out whose score doesn't count fully, 50 percent of those are failing scores and 50 percent are passing scores," he said.

The state's dropout rate is not looking too bright either. According to recent statistics, one in 5 high school students will leave between 9th and 10th grade, which is more than a third of the 19,000 dropouts every year. Statistics show only 60 percent of North Carolina students will graduate on time, which is worse than the national average of 68 percent.