Tuesday, April 18, 2006
AP: No-Child-Left-Behind law punishes minority schools
By FRANK BASS, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 1 hour, 16 minutes ago
HARTFORD, Conn. - Wedged in a poor, gritty immigrant neighborhood, Henry C. Dwight Elementary School harks back to an earlier era of learning. Its ceilings are high, there is a fireplace in the library and students wear uniforms as they dart between classrooms.
The oldest public school in one of the nation's oldest cities, Dwight finds itself at the center of a growing national debate over whether the nation's newest education experiment is -- unexpectedly -- encouraging school segregation.
That's because the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to demonstrate that students in specific racial, social and economic groups are making annual progress. A school fails if even one group fails. The more groups in a school, the greater chance for failure.
Dwight's population is racially and economically diverse, making its future under the law uncertain even though it is currently meeting its goals. The law stresses getting students proficient in math and reading by 2014, the principal says.
"They're (federal officials) not validating the incremental successes, but we are making great gains," said Dwight's Principal Stacey McCann, left, who supports the law. "I believe schools ... are making gains, but they might not make the mark that has been set."
Many of Connecticut's mostly white, rich suburban schools, which already are succeeding under the law, don't want the same uncertainty. They are resisting efforts to diversify, fearing that taking minority or poor students will hurt their chances to meet the law's requirements.
"We've had a reluctance on the part of school districts to accept youngsters who come in with deficiencies because they're concerned that if they get enough of them ... they'll become labeled as failing schools," Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg said.
And that complicates Sternberg's efforts to resolve the nation's longest-running desegregation lawsuit, which accuses Connecticut of failing to provide minority students with as good an education as whites.
The state also is leading a multistate lawsuit challenging the No Child legislation, arguing it is too costly for Connecticut to administer writing tests as frequently as the government requires.
Henry Johnson, the U.S.'s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said he understands the concerns but believes the accountability the new law imposes on schools will ultimately benefit all children.
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