No Child Left Behind Education Law to Be Revamped?

In 2002, when the “No Child Left Behind” education act was passed it was for educational reform targeted to change the use of Federal funds to close the achievement gap and improve the achievement levels of America’s students. The Federal funding required states to fund their own expenses in order to adhere to the law and gain the Federal monies.

Between 1965 and 2001, $120 billion a year in Federal dollars was allotted to close the achievement gap between rich and poor. Yet, today, we see this gap growing wider.

Now legislators are calling for a revamping of the law in order to make it more flexible and effective.

With 70% of inner city fourth graders unable to read at a basic level on national reading tests, concerns are being raised. Since our high school seniors trail students in Cyprus, China and South Africa on international math tests, educators are seeking ways to ameliorate those statistics for America. Nearly a third of students entering colleges and universities today are required to take remedial classes before they can even begin to participate in regular college courses.

So what is the hope of advocates of the “No Child Left Behind” law? The objective is the same as it was a decade ago. The methods, however, are now in question. How to make educators and school districts accountable for their performance is a mammoth undertaking. With states, like Texas, reducing state funds to schools, the problem of student achievement is increasingly frightening.

Teachers and schools are already burdened with the task of meeting high expectations for educators and more and more involved curricula. Frankly, teachers and schools need tons of assistance that is going to be missed when teachers, teacher assistants and whoever is considered “non-essential staff” are let go because of lack of funding.

One giant contribution which Americans can make toward improving the achievement of our students is by volunteering in the schools. Volunteerism, by its nature, is the giving of oneself, one’s talents and time. That is a service that cannot be legislated. Willing service from those who are equipped to offer it is the component that is embarrassingly missing in Elementary and Secondary Education in America today.

American adults have the ability to contribute and make a positive impact on children’s education. Teachers and Administrators need our help. Students who are “at risk” desperately need our help.

You’ve heard that old idealism ” If I can make a difference in the life of just one child…” Well, we can. It is not so difficult. In working with a Third Grader at a nearby Elementary School, I got a real kick out of his response to a simple suggestion aimed at reducing his obvious stress as he viewed a full page of text his teacher gave him to read. I just asked him to go the second page and read the questions first. Then I showed him how he could scan the passage for keywords that would lead him to the correct answers.

The passage was in the format used for the achievement test mandated by the state of Texas. He has to be able to manage that format in order to be successful. That little boy was thrilled and completed the assignment independently and with enthusiasm. We were both pleased. His teacher was relieved to know that he could work independently. After all, she has a lot of other students for whom she is accountable and she wants each of them to be successful.

Whether or not the “No Child Left Behind” education law remains a Federally funded initiative and is extended by the next school year, our help as educated adults may be crucial to students’ futures.

That tutoring session was just 45 minutes long. The student’s confidence in his abilities is growing exponentially. Volunteerism certainly is a “win-win” process! Try it. Help out in America’s mission to improve students’ achievement.

Education Law in the 21st Century

While it is not an area of law in which a great many cases are undertaken, the cases and issues that end up arising and being litigated in the education law area tends to prove to be very significant. This has been the history of education law and remains the reality in this day and age. Through this article you are provided an overview of some of the more significant and transitory issues associated with education law in this day and age.

A good many of the cases that have arisen in the education law arena have centered on equal access to educational opportunities based upon issues pertaining to ethnicity, race, sex and religion. Some of the most significant issues pertaining to education law have involved access to educational experiences by people of minority races. Of course, the most significant case in this regard actually was handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1959. The case of Brown vs. Board of Education brought an end to the concept of “separate but equal”, which guided educational systems across the United States.

Although the Brown case was handed down by the Supreme Court many years ago, there remain issues that still arise when it comes to making sure that minority students have an appropriate access to educational opportunities in the country. For example, many school districts became embroiled in cases involving the busing of students to achieve racial equality when it came to educational systems, only in recent times have attendant issues been resolved.

Some of the newer issues and cases involving race, sex and related issues and education law have centered on access to scholarships and other educational financing opportunities. There are still cases that arise in which a contention is made that certain financing options are not fully available to all individuals.

Most recently, many of the cases involving education law issues have involved individuals with physical or other types of impairments. The goal in regard to these cases is to work to ensure that educational opportunities are made regularly and fully available to people no matter their physical status. (Related cases also center on individuals who have some sort of intellectual or mental health issue as well.)

Finally, another active area in education law in this day and age involves public school financing. First of all, there are cases that center upon working to ensure that all public school systems in a particular state are fairly funded. Second, there are cases and issues that focus upon the funding of private school educational experiences. Legislative leaders have also found themselves involved in developing new laws to attempt to deal with these two types of issues in more recent years – a trend that is expected to carry forth into the future.

There remain lawyers in business today who are specializing in education law. More often than not these attorneys are most frequently involved in ensuring that people have an even and equal access to appropriate and meaningful educational opportunities.

Special Education Laws, Impacts

Special education laws have had a substantial impact on bilingual special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), originally passed in 1975 and reauthorized in 2004, governs special education services in public schools. The law protects the rights of students with disabilities and their families and tries to ensure that ELLs are assessed fairly. The law includes numerous provisions outlined below.

1. Informed consent: Schools must obtain written informed consent from parents or guardians to evaluate a student. Parents must be fully informed of their rights, any records to be released and to whom, and the nature and purpose of the evaluation. Parents or guardians must be informed in their native language or primary mode of communication.

2. Multidisciplinary team: Students should be assessed by a team of professionals with varied areas of expertise according to the student’s individuals needs. The team should include at least one general education teacher and one special education teacher. For English language learners, the team should include someone with expertise in the language acquisition process.

3. Comprehensive evaluation: Before an initial placement, the multidisciplinary team must conduct a complete assessment in all areas of suspected disability. No single procedure can be used as the sole criterion for determining an appropriate educational program for a child. Alternative procedures should be used when standardized tests are not considered appropriate (e.g., with culturally and linguistically diverse students). A comprehensive evaluation should include an analysis of the instructional setting and the child’s instructional history.

4. Exclusionary criteria: A student should not be labeled if the academic struggles are primarily the result of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage. IDEA 2004 adds that a child should not be found to have a disability if the determinant factor is poor instruction in reading or math, or limited English proficiency.

5. Nondiscriminatory assessment: Assessments should be (a) selected and administered so as not to be racially or culturally discriminatory; (b) provided and administered in the child’s native language or other mode of communication and in the form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally, unless it is clearly not feasible; (c) used for the purposes for which the assessments are valid and reliable; (d) administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel; and (e) administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessments.