NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND Q&A
I need to comment on the article Why No Child Left Behind Must Work: Q&A with one of the main architects of NCLB (September, pg. 54). First of all, I have been involved in federal programs for schools for 30 years. I am not totally against what NCLB is trying to do. There are some good points to it. However, I must take issue with some of what we are led to believe in this article. [On page 55, it asks] "You say states have more fl exibility under this law, not less. Can you explain this?" The response talks about making progress and specifi cally addresses the subgroup of children with disabilities. One would be led to believe from this piece that there is no big problem if this group is making progress but not making AYP. Let me assure you that the item ended far too soon. There are signifi cant consequences for schools in this situation that were not talked about. There are thousands of schools facing this issue right now and just being eligible for school improvement funds will not fi x the problem. I do have one more thought to consider. In most states students with disabilities signifi cant enough to need special help are called "special education" students. I believe strongly that special education students can learn. I think too many congressmen and uninformed others have forgotten what the "special" in special education means. I wish the whole story would come out on these issues instead of making it sound like the government is giving us everything we need and schools are still lousy places to learn. I certainly agree that some are better but not all are lousy.
Harry Howard Principal, Mecosta Elementary School Mecosta, Mich.
I'm superintendent of a small rural school district (890 students in grades Preschool through 14) in eastern Colorado. I read your interview with Sandy Kress on NCLB. Here are some of my reactions to Mr. Kress. It seems he believes that "good administrators" will follow the nobrainer preemptive strike of the Bush administration and big government's attempt to take over control of the public schools in America. As a lawyer, he appears to have all the education pieces analyzed and laid out in easyto- follow steps 1, 2, 3, 4. The so-called business model is good for American industry, he thinks-and so it must be good for educating children, especially if you are a "good manager." Our little school district had enough good sense to turn down Federal Title I money and to stay out of the way of Mr. Kress's manufactured federal steamroller. The children in Strasburg, Colorado, belong to the good people in this community, not to the bloated federal government ideologues. To think Mr. Kress and his ilk can drive and bully all children by 2014 to cross the goal line he has unilaterally established is arrogant and unrealistic and lacks any understanding of the complicated task of educating children. Let us hope more school districts see the distraction that NCLB can cause to American children and drop out of Title I funds. We are good stewards of our children, and we need to have the overly-bloated federal government keep its nose out of our local schools.
Bill Powell Superintendent Strasburg (Colo.)
School District I read with great interest your article New Teacher Certifi cation Program Angers NEA (September, pg. 25). I think it is high time that the NEA stop whining. A college degree in education does not make a person a teacher. My father did not graduate from high school, yet there are seven Ford dealers in the metro Atlanta area who were taught the automobile business by my father. Those who can teach, teach regardless of their formal education!
Community Based Instruction Facilitator,
Special Education Department
Richmond County (Ga.)
Board of Education
DEBATING ONE-SIDED PARENT CONTRACTS
You are exactly right in stating that the "Dear Parent or Guardian" letters (Gary Stager on One-sided Parent Contracts, September, pg. 65) are an attempt by school systems to CYA and may indeed be an overreaction to some obscure law or legal ruling handed down by a federal judge. However, a day does not go by that I do not receive a piece of correspondence about a parent who has sued a school system over some frivolous issue that ends up costing the school district tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend itself. Much of this started when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Tinker decision in 1968 and since then there has been an avalanche of rights-related lawsuits brought against school districts, some legitimate but most frivolous. The fi rst thing the plaintiff's attorney asks in a legal action is, "Is this policy in writing?" and the next question is, "Did you provide your students and their parents a copy of this policy?" Therein lies the reason you are receiving these future felon letters. My point is-don't blame the messenger (the public schools), blame the courts, our litigious society, unrealistic expectations from demanding parents, and the Congress for passing some of these ridiculous laws, i.e. NCLB.
Richmond County Schools, Hamlet, N.C.
I wonder how long you would keep your student in a school that met all your demands? I get the point that all the papers the school sent you to sign got silly and out of hand, but I bet each paper represents one or more lawsuits won against a school. A simple non-litigation contract would probably take the place of all that pulp, but would you sign it? Would the NAACP, NCLU sign one on every students' behalf? Bill Kurtz
Camdenton High School
Camdenton (Mo.) R-III School District
It is 5:26 p.m. and I am just sitting down to lunch. A friend sent me your article on One-Sided Parent Contracts, which I thought would be enjoyable reading during my "noon" meal. Where in the name of heavenly glory are your children going to school? Please bring them to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where you will fi nd schools that mirror your sarcastic list. Our teachers are trained in and practice Judicious Discipline (translated: wise teaching) where the Constitution and democratic principles are used to teach the children what their rights are and how to exercise them as responsible citizens. My teachers attend three to four workshops per summer to maintain expertise in their seven subject areas, which they apply in between the parenting that we provide on an hourly basis for un-parented children. Active learning abounds ... to the outsider, it might even look like play. Then, the teacher sits down to help the children make meaning of the experience. A gulag? Please. In answer to your question-Why talk to Johnnie Cochran, he's responsible. We HATE having that being our fi rst contact with you every year. If we don't send that ominous envelope out and have you sign all that legal mumbo jumbo, then later in the year, we can't legally do what it takes to keep your child (upon whom, if you've sent us a thinking, caring citizen, we will never have to impose that 'draconian catalogue of subsequent consequences') safe at school. We cannot educate the masses amid a chaos allowed to be stirred up by a few. You shot with a scattergun, Mr. Stager, and you hit my staff. You owe them an apology. Julie Pengelly
Scottsbluff High School
Scottsbluff (Neb.) Public Schools
Letters can be sent to email@example.com.
Please include your name, title and district (including state). We reserve the right to edit all letters.