A study by the Harvard Civil Rights project regarding correspondence between the DOE and all 50 states on how they can administer their accountability plans indicates the following: "Political compromises forged between some states and the federal government has allowed schools in some predominantly white districts to dodge penalties faced by regions with larger ethnic minority populations." -Angela
Feb. 14, 2006, 7:27AM
Bush education policy called 'uneven' in study
Compromises sometimes benefit richer districts over poorer ones, researchers say
By JASON SZEP
Reuters News Service
BOSTON - President Bush's signature education policy has in some cases benefited white middle-class children over blacks and other minorities in poorer regions, a Harvard University study indicated today.
Political compromises forged between some states and the federal government has allowed schools in some predominantly white districts to dodge penalties faced by regions with larger ethnic minority populations, the study said.
Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind Act was meant to introduce national standards to an education system where only two-thirds of teenagers graduate from high school, a proportion that slides to 50 percent for black Americans and Hispanics.
But instead of uniform standards, the policy has allowed various states to negotiate treaties and bargains to reduce the number of schools and districts identified as failing, said the study by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project.
"There's a very uneven effect. There are no clear uniform standards that are governing No Child Left Behind. If one state gets one thing, another state can do something else," said the study's author, Gail Sunderman.
Under No Child Left Behind, children in every racial and demographic group in every school must improve their scores on standardized tests in math and English each year. Failure to achieve annual progress can lead to sanctions against schools.
Children in poorly performing schools can switch schools if space is available. In extreme cases, schools can be closed.
But a surge in the number of schools identified as "needing improvement," including many considered top performers in their state, has stirred opposition to the law nationwide — from a challenge in Connecticut to a rebellion by state legislators in staunchly Republican Utah.
The 60-page study examines letters sent by the Department of Education to all 50 states on how each state can administer the law and on their accountability plans.
Nearly every state has taken some action to amend the law or been granted waivers to provisions in No Child Left Behind, the study said. "The problem with this approach is that it does not affect all schools equally," Sunderman said. "No two states are now subject to the same requirements."
In one example the study cites, states in rural Midwestern regions were granted extensions to deadlines to meet requirements on teacher qualifications that were unavailable to poorer rural regions with greater numbers of black Americans and ethnic minorities in southeast and southwest states.
"The policy is essentially a product of negotiation, of power and discretion, not law," said Gary Orfield, director of Harvard's Civil Rights Project.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has said the law works, citing data showing reading scores for 9-year-olds up more over the last five years than between 1971 and 1999.
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