Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for January 17, 2005

What a difference a year makes. Since Governor Rod Blagojevich purged the ISBE and appointed a new State Superintendent, the tone coming out of Springfield is definitely more supportive. The following article appeared in today's edition of The Southern Illinoisan...



SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- President George W. Bush has announced he will push his No Child Left Behind agenda into the high schools during his second term, but Illinois' interim State Superintendent Randy Dunn says officials should fix the program before they expand it.

Dunn, a resident of Chester and Southern Illinois University Carbondale administrator who is temporarily leading the Illinois State Board of Education through an overhaul, said he's glad to see the president focus attention on the high school grade levels in his education agenda.

Dunn said the majority of education reform and previous NCLB exploits have been centered around elementary schools. The interim school leader said he agrees it is time to start thinking about accountability at the high school level, as has been done at the grade school level.

However, Dunn, who was critical of some aspects of NCLB late last year following the release of school report cards, said there are still too many problems with Bush's education plan to immediately spread it into another arena.

"I don't know that I'm ready to say it's time to open the way for increased testing," Dunn said. "Before we start adding to the portfolio of NCLB, we need to address the problems facing it."

The interim state superintendent has said NCLB proliferates in one area -- showing the gap between different groups of students' performance. In other areas of consideration, such as special education, Dunn said NCLB "mistreats" students, with a hard line of success or failure based on one standardized test.

"There is always concern when you're talking about one test indicator to answer such a complex question," Dunn said.

Though, Bush seems to be moving forward with NCLB in the high schools focused on a test. During his announcement of his education agenda Wednesday in J.E.B. Stuart High School in a Washington, D.C. suburb, the president outlined why he considered testing an important measurement for all students.

"Testing is important," Bush said. "Testing at high school levels will help us become more competitive as the years go by. Testing in high schools will make sure that our children are employable for the jobs of the 21st century. Testing will make sure the diploma is not merely a sign of endurance, but the mark of a young person ready to succeed."

Bush's expansion of NCLB would require annual testing from the time a student enters third grade through eleventh grade. It would also require an additional test for high school seniors to examine how well a district has educated the students.

Dunn said examining a high school student's overall education based on one test will deliver a skewed version of reality.

"Certainly colleges don't rely on one indicator," he said. "They look at a number of other things when taking student applications."

Dunn said the Bush administration seems to be looking for simple answers to complex questions. He said high schools across the country, especially those in Illinois, will respond to the challenges posed by an expanded NCLB act.

Dunn said it is obvious Bush has political clout to push his education agenda, and as long as he is in office, schools across the nation will have to react.

"Our charge is to respond to it," Dunn said. "It may not be a policy that has legs to carry it over the decades, but it's our charge not to ignore it because it might go away."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.