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Inside The Law

Inside the Law

Analyzing, Debating and Explaining No Child Left Behind

Rallies Speak for Struggling Schools

We need more. That simple plea was the message in 11 major cities across the nation when some members of Congress, teachers, parents, and ACORN members rallied to protest a shortfall of funding for No Child Left Behind.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, organized the rallies--from Providence, R.I., to San Francisco--to publicly inform President Bush and Congress that $12.35 billion for Title I schools in fiscal year 2004 won't cut it. When enacted two years ago, the law was supposed to come with $18.35 billion in federal funds for Title I schools.

ACORN is protesting the $6 billion shortfall because many schools are struggling with inadequate resources and run-down buildings. "What we find is that there aren't enough teachers in major school districts," says Elizabeth Wolff, national research director. ACORN strives to ensure rookie teachers receive good mentoring. The group does that by pushing districts to have full-time mentoring programs where one teacher's full-time job is to help new teachers do their jobs better. No Child Left Behind requires highly qualified teachers in every classroom. The most struggling students should not be disproportionately taught by the least experienced teachers, Wolff says.

"I think this is a movement that keeps building," says Rachel Burrows, ACORN's legislative representative. "This is going to be a long-term fight, and we know it and we have to build a base around it. ... It obviously is not going to happen tomorrow, which is frustrating because the kids have to go to school tomorrow."

Web Site will Compare and Contrast Schools

For the first time, school district leaders and parents can compare their schools' test successes and failures with other schools thanks to a new Web site. The new $55 million public/private partnership sponsored by the Broad Foundation involves the U.S. Department of Education, Just for Kids, and Standard & Poor's, a provider of financial information and analytical services. S&P is creating the Web site.

By early 2004, state test results for English and math in public school districts in 10 states will be on Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Services Web site. Science scores will be added later. The remaining states that volunteer for the program will be accessible by late 2004.

On the site, a curriculum director, for example, can compare grade five math test scores for girls in her school with other schools in the state that have similar demographics but higher test scores. The curriculum director can then call that school to find out how it is doing so well.

Jonathan Jacobson, director of School Evaluation Services, says "it complies with the spirit of [No Child Left Behind] in that it's using information to understand and manage and improve" student achievement.

"It will really give stakeholders in these states a great repository of information to really understand how these schools are doing, how to meet adequate yearly goals," Jacobson says.

Mapping a Curriculum

Hamilton (Ohio) City Schools

Even in a place like Hamilton (Ohio) City Schools, where many students are improving in academics, pockets of weakness need attention.

In the past year, an instructional team of administrators and master teachers devised curriculum mapping--so

curriculum is consistent in every grade and every subject from K-12. Curriculum mapping is vital to keep a student on the same school work path particularly in a district where many low-income students tend to move within the district, due, in part, to eviction threats. "When a child moves from one school to another they can pick up where they left off," says Barbara Fuerbacher, assistant superintendent of instruction.

Hamilton schools are improving under No Child Left Behind. As of last year, the district met 14 of 22 annual indicators of success as created by the state, which include reading, writing, math, science, and citizenship. According to the school district's local report card, there were increases in 21 of 22 indicators.

Hamilton also continues to emphasize staff development, especially in academic content standards and preparing teachers to evaluate work according to grade level indicators. In the past two years, the state adopted a model curriculum with content standards, including benchmarks, for math, language arts, social studies and science. The benchmarks state that students should master a certain amount of curriculum by a certain time.

"Our job is to help teachers understand the framework," how to assess student achievement, and to help build instructional techniques to teach new curricula, Fuerbacher says.