Inside the Law
Taking Baby Steps to Meet NCLB Requirements
A new report from the U.S. Department of Education written by experts from the RAND Corporation and the American Institutes of Research says that after five years of effort, states have implemented most of the test-based accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law of 2001 and must now focus their efforts on improving poor-performing schools.
The report, based on findings from two federally funded studies-the Study of State Implementation of Accountability and Teacher Quality Under NCLB and the National Longitudinal Study of NCLB-describes the progress states, districts and schools have made in implementing NCLB's accountability provisions through 2004-2005.
But not all provisions of the law have been fully implemented, according to the report. Twenty states were behind in implementing assessments that measure English-language proficiency. High-poverty, high-minority and urban schools were most likely to be identified for improvement, as were middle schools and large schools.
"These are good first steps, but more needs to be done," says co-author Brian Stecher of RAND. "Some states still struggle to deliver timely information. ...Others struggle to provide basic resource for schools such as textbooks and instructional materials.
Presidential Candidates Speak Out on Merit Pay
The issue of merit pay for teachers was a key talking point during the CNN Democratic debate on November 15. Here's what some of the candidates had to say. (Merit pay was not addressed during the Nov. 28 Republican debate.)
Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.)
"An excellent teacher should be judged by whether or not that teacher, outside of the classroom, improves themselves and their teaching skills. My wife got two master's degrees and a doctorate degree. That's merit pay. I think we should demand more of our teachers in continuing education and in terms of their participation after school and in school."
Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.)
"The school is a team, and I think it's important that we reward that collaboration. You need to weed out the teachers who are not doing a good job. That's the bottom line. I believe our education system has served this country very well. But we're in the 21st century. We do need to re-imagine it. And the teachers need to be at the table."
Sen. Christopher Dodd (Conn.)
"If you define 'excelling' by teachers who will go into poor rural or poor urban areas and make a difference-mentor children after school, put in extra time to make a difference-then I think that sort of merit pay has value. If you're judging excelling by determining whether or not that teacher has students who do better because they're in better neighborhoods or better schools, I'm totally opposed to that. That's not the way to be judging these matters."
Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.)
"I want to be the education president. The key to a good education is a strong teacher. One of the problems we have in this country is we disrespect teachers. We underpay them. I would have a minimum wage for all teachers starting out at $40,000 a year. I would junk NCLB. It is a disaster. We need also to have a college education policy that deals with the huge loans that are killing our college students."
Speakers Against Learners
A new state law in Arizona will require schools to segregate children who cannot pass an English exam into separate classrooms, where they will take a specially designed four-hour English language instruction course.
The impending changes are raising concerns that the course will take away time from other subjects and cause English learners to graduate late, and some educators are questioning the academic value of learning in separate classrooms.
"Where is an [ELL student] going to learn best?" asks Mike Oliver, principal at Zaharis Elementary School in Mesa. "In an environment where they're doing worksheets, going through prescribed curriculum a teacher is transmitting, or in an environment where there's a lot of beautiful language being spoken, where there is dialogue, where they get to hear the voices of others?"