RALEIGH — Groups representing some teachers and school boards in North Carolina are forming a coalition to urge changes to the federal No Child Left Behind bill, but the leader of an education-reform organization warns that students will be the losers if such changes weaken the incentive for government-run schools to improve.
Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of the North Carolina Education Alliance and a former teacher and school-board member in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, said while some technical changes to the federal law may be warranted, many of the complains coming from the state’s public-school establishment are overblown or incorrect.
“If we are going to have the federal government involved in K-12 education, then we should at least ensure that federal dollars don’t just keep flowing each year to underperforming schools,” Kakadelis said.
One argument against the federal law in its current form is that its standards are too stringent and don’t follow the “annual growth” model used to compute teacher bonuses under North Carolina’s ABCs program. But Kakadelis argues that No Child Left Behind does employ the concept of “adequate yearly progress,” and sets reasonable goals that challenge schools to serve all students.
“A new goal does kick in for 2004-05,” she said, “but it isn’t unreasonable: three-quarters of students in grades 3-8 must achieve basic competency in reading, for example, as must 64 percent of high-school students.”
Another criticism of No Child Left Behind is that it mandates federal accountability standards on local schools without providing additional funding to help schools meet them. But Kakadelis said that this ignores the substantial increase in federal funds that accompanied the bill – $492 million to help implement its provisions in North Carolina. The federal government has provided $127 million in new Title I funding, $127 million more for special education, $28 million for the Reading First program, $65 million for teacher recruitment and retention, and $10 million more for English as a second language.
“We already spend significant sums to run North Carolina’s public schools,” she said. “Taxpayers and parents deserve to see improvements in student performance – not just under the ABCs growth model, which is so easy to meet that virtually all schools earned bonuses last year.”
For more information, contact Lindalyn Kakadelis at 704-231-9767 or visit the North Carolina Education Alliance website.