No Child Left Behind – Educator Emphasizes Importance of School Reform

Apr 12, 2003 05:08 PM EDT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.– The president and chief executive officer of the International Youth Foundation urged educators to focus on the “no child left behind” policy, calling for continued school reform and improvement.

David Hornbeck, announced the need for Grass-roots advocacy in the public school system during the April 4-7 meeting of the Women’s division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The Women’s division, which oversees United Methodist Women, launched Phase III of its Campaign for Children in 2002, with a focus on public school education. Each UMW unit is urged to connect with local schools "and to explore ways to effectively promote quality, safe and accessible public education for every child."

Hornbeck offered a quick overview of school reform, starting in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Brown v. the Board of Education opened the door to school integration. Subsequent educational changes included adoption of Title I, the report on "A Nation at Risk," and the move toward establishing state testing standards during the 1990s.

The recertification of Title I in 1994, with test standards at the center, created the framework for the National Education Act, also known as "No Child Left Behind," he said.

Under the act, schools are not considered to have met standards unless all groups of children – not just an average of all students – have met the specified performance level.

Hornbeck, who once served as the superintendent of the Philedelphia school system, said the policy “represents a significant leap forward.” Institutions affected by the new criteria would be considered “failing” if the students at the bottom of the academic rung had not shown improvement.

Citing the example of Greenfield elementary, Hornbeck said, "For years, Greenfield (school) had masked the absence of the staff’s performance with these youngsters by improving the performance of the kids who were going to do well," he explained. The next year, he added, Greenfield exceeded performance targets for the bottom-level students.

Hornbeck said the program lacks funding to carry out its goal. Another problem is that the local school or school district, not the state, is held accountable for meeting the goals. The result, he said, is that some districts, often in urban areas, must struggle to reach the same level of achievement as their better-funded suburban counterparts.

He told the UMW audience, "Your advocacy is essential to the unmet needs, and this act sharpens the definitions of the unmet needs."

By Pauline J.