Mass. Seeks Waiver To "No Child Left Behind" Law
By Paul Tuthill
Springfield, MA – Massachusetts has submitted a proposal to replace some of the strictest provisions of the No Child Left Behind law with a more flexible system that would require the state's schools to show steady improvement. The standardized tests, called MCAS , that are given to students at regular intervals in their academic careers would remain as the primary measurement of success or failure. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The 85 page plan submitted to the US Department of Education gives schools in Massachusetts more latitude to reach academic goals than the 2002 federal education reform law.According to critics of the No Child Left Behind rules solid schools were unfairly labeled as sub-par.
The Patrick administration says students in Massachusetts are leading the nation in academic achievement and targeted plans have been developed to close achievement gaps between students in wealthier communities and minority, immigrant and low income students. Governor Patrick, last week, announced initiatives aimed at improving schools in so-called gateway cities, including Springfield, Pittsfield, Holyoke, Chicopee and Westfield.
Patrick's plan includes a kindergarten literacy program to ensure children are proficient readers by the time they reach third grade.
Third grade reading proficiency is key to future success in school, according to Ralph Smith, who directs a national campaign on grade level reading for the Annie E Casey Foundation.
Smith says the MCAS exam in Massachusetts is an accurate measure of whether children are reading at their grade level.
Ann Morello teaches a first grade reading intervention program in the Boland Elementary school in Springfield. She says most children enter school already behind where they should be in reading skills.
Early childhood education advocates in Springfield launched an initiative two years ago with a goal of 80 percent reading proficiency at the end of third grade by 2016.. The project director , Sally Fuller of the Davis Foundation, says current reading proficiency is under 40 percent for Springfield third graders.
The early literacy initiative recently launched a funders collaborative with a goal of raising one point five million dollars to fund its programs.
The program includes campaigns to encourage parents to spend 20 minutes a day reading to their young children. There are book giveways at pediatricians offices, and summer reading programs.