VA teachers ask great questions
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- Subject: VA teachers ask great questions
- From: "Susan Allison" <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 14 Aug 2005 09:57:35 -0400
Spellings Quiz: Teachers test official
BY GIL KLEIN
MEDIA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE
Sunday, August 14, 2005
ON THE INTERNET
Ask the Education Secretary
WASHINGTON - Lisa Hogsett, who teaches emotionally disabled students at
Bailey Bridge Middle School in Chesterfield County, is struggling with the
federal No Child Left Behind law.
Her students, some of whom read on third-and fourth-grade levels, are
expected to pass the same achievement tests required of regular students,
she said. If she could, Hogsett would say this to U.S. Secretary of
Education Margaret Spellings:
"No matter how many accommodations [my students] get, they simply can't pass
the criteria established through No Child Left Behind to ensure my school
makes [adequate] yearly progress."
Hogsett would ask if there will be any changes to No Child testing that
allows children to be tested according to their current reading level.
Normally, Hogsett would have no way to ask her question. But Media General
News Service this month sat down with Spellings and asked Hogsett's question
and 21 others submitted by teachers who read Media General newspapers in the
As Hogsett's comments suggest, many teachers feel affected by No Child Left
Behind. Under the law, each school must make "adequate yearly progress"
toward getting all students proficient in reading and math by 2014. Schools
that miss that goal suffer the stigma of being singled out as needing
improvement. Some schools even have to give their students the option of
transferring to a better school.
As President Bush's chief education adviser in his first term, Spellings was
instrumental in creating the law. Now as education secretary in Bush's
second term, she is in charge of implementing it.
Asked Hogsett's question, Spellings said, "Well, Lisa, that's a complicated
question with a little bit of a complicated answer."
In the 3½ years since the law was implemented, "we now have a better
understanding about who special-ed kids are and the range of abilities from
the most severely and profoundly handicapped to those that will get to the
goal line of proficiency."
Spellings added that just putting this requirement in the law has changed
the nature of the discussion about special-education students.
"What gets measured gets done," she said. This "really has caused us to
focus on every single child and to have a better, richer understanding of
their needs and of the kind of instruction that it's going to take to get
Jennifer Andrews, a special-education teacher at Godwin High School in
Henrico County, worries about the law's requirement that middle and high
school teachers be certified in the subjects they teach. She is certified in
special education but teaches science to special-ed students.
"Under No Child Left Behind, I'm required to be certified in both special
education and science," she said. Yet finding a teacher certified in both
subjects is nearly impossible. "How will NCLB address that problem?"
Spellings offered no hope for a change in that requirement. Instead, she
said, the Education Department is creating regional "Teacher Institutes" to
help train experienced teachers.
The law, she said, "is building an appetite in school management -- with
Jennifer's boss, if you will -- to pay more attention to Jennifer's ability,
her skills and her professional-development opportunity. The bottom line
will be improved performance for the kids."
Andrews also asked what would happen in cities such as Portsmouth, Va.,
where so many schools have failed to meet adequate yearly progress that
parents in those schools must participate in a lottery to get their children
into the few schools that are performing well.
"School choice is just one of the options for students under No Child Left
Behind when their school does not make adequate yearly progress," Spellings
said. "The Portsmouth school district could create a school within a school
that could offer a different curriculum for students seeking an alternative.
The district also has the option to provide early supplemental education
services like tutoring and after-school help to their students."
Maria Luzzi, a special-education teacher at Henrico's Tuckahoe Middle
School, asked: "How can we expect the schools to show yearly progress when
we're constantly getting a new set of immigrants who have to start from the
beginning to overcome language barriers, culture shock and economic
Spellings, who was Bush's education adviser when he was governor of Texas,
said she has been working on the immigrant-education problem a long time and
still doesn't have the answer.
"I've convened a group of experts and practitioners, educators, to see what
we know about how best to serve those kids, and I'm looking for their
guidance," she said. "I want to do a lot of listening to the people who are
out in the field and am hopeful that by the early part of the school year
we'll have some additional clarification around our ability to better serve
Jennifer Karluk, who lives in Richmond and teaches at Ecoff Elementary
School in Chesterfield, said the No Child law seems to be in violation of
the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which governs how
schools treat disabled children.
No Child requires that children be tested at their present grade level, she
said, even if the disabled student cannot perform at that level. IDEA
requires that disabled children be tested at their current performance
Spellings said a recent legal ruling determined that No Child is not in
conflict with IDEA.
"Congress reauthorized IDEA at the end of last year to make absolutely sure
that these two pieces of legislation . . . were in harmony," she said. By
the end of this year, she said, the Education Department will complete a
review of its rules to clear up any "misunderstandings or misperceptions."
Nancy Welch, the instructional technology resource teacher at Mathews County
High School, wanted to know if, when No Child is up for renewal in 2007,
Spellings will be recommending any changes.
Spellings said there may well be changes in provisions for special-education
children, for children with limited English and to give schools credit for
making progress over time.
"I'm anxious to visit with educators about what they think the issues are,"
she said, "and I'll be working with Congress as we head into
Gil Klein writes for the Washington bureau of Media General News Service.
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