Skagway School may pull out of No Child Left Behind Act

By LUCIE STRAUB
The nation is now in an uproar over a new federal law passed in January 2002 – the No Child Left Behind Act, also known as NCLB. Its purpose is to raise expectations for national test achievement by 2006.
Federal monies will be granted to schools based on their ethnic and economic diversity, and teacher quality, among other things. However, the restrictions and guidelines for a school to fall within qualification are so vague and restrictive that many schools around the country are scrambling to figure them out by 2006.
To become qualified, a school must have a certain percentage of students pass the test, and the teachers within the schools must be “highly qualified.” Test takers would be divided into different groups based on their race and economic status. NCLB requires all groups show average yearly progress or they will be labeled as “in crisis.”
Two years after that designation if the school is still found to be “in crisis,” it would be shut down. The act demands a “dramatic” percentage, said Skagway School Superintendent Michael Dickens.
The percentages of schools in the U.S. that can actually comply with the test are low.
“Ninety-seven to ninety-eight percent of the entire state of Washington is not qualified, or what is termed “in crisis,” said Skagway science teacher Ryan Prnka, “It doesn’t mean the schools are bad like it sounds, it just means they aren’t with NLCB standards.
“The whole thing is impractical,” Prnka goes on, “it has a lot of loop holes, the whole thing is vague, and you can’t enact a set number of guidelines just because of the diversity of America.”
This also will shift the accountability of the schools from the parents and the community to the federal government, said English teacher Deborah Hanson.
Dickens agrees, “It sounds good, but it’s like this miracle, magical thing to have the entire nation set by NCLB standards by 2006.”
“This is the way for federal government to look at tests, and decide what the students should look like from Washington D.C. standards. Of course Alaskan students are going to be different,” said Hanson.
“There is $14 billion needed to help schools comply with NLCB, but government has only allotted $1 billion to the system. That isn’t nearly enough,” added Prnka.
Skagway City School is thinking of pulling out for the simple fact that the school won’t get a lot of money for all the work – figuring out the guidelines, the paperwork, and the red tape. Since Skagway is not really ethnically and economically diverse and they fit right into the guidelines, NCLB would only give about 20 percent of a teacher’s pay, about $11,000.
“That simply is not really worth us going through all the work.” Dickens says.
However, no decision has been made yet.
Meanwhile, Skagway City School’s eighth graders were randomly selected to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. This test, taken last week, will assesss how Alaska students compare to other states and the nation as a whole.