For the 2012-2013 school year, a one-year freeze on the requirements for No Child Left Behind has been instated in Iowa, allowing schools to remain at the level they currently are, academically, for the next year, while striving for test scores that reflect grade level in math and reading by 2014.
Lowell Ernst, director of K-12 instruction in the Pella school district, states that the No Child Left Behind law was supposed to be re-authorized between 2008 and 2010, but it was not, so the law still exists, and the freeze allows schools to have a year to work on improvement without having to reach a specific level of improvement for the 2012-2013 school year.
Ernst says with the one-year freeze, more schools will be seen on the list of schools that need improvement, but, “It won’t be because of the school’s doing any worse than ever, it’s just because of where the trend line now falls.” When No Child Left Behind first began, Iowa built a trend line to map out how much progress schools would have to make to reach 100% proficiency between the years 2000 and 2014. “They did three years at a very small increase, and then they bumped it up a little bit for three more years at a very small increase. Then, when you got to 2010, basically they have a trend line that pretty much goes straight up.”
Prior to this point, Ernst says, schools were required to meet 100% proficiency not only for the all students, but for subgroups, such as ESL students and Special Education students as well. He says, “It used to be only larger schools on the list for improvement, because in order for something to be considered a subgroup, there must be at least thirty students in that group. As the trend line goes up, it will be not only subgroups, but it will be all students.”
The one-year freeze, according to Ernst, will give the state time to decide what they want to do regarding the proposed program in which some teachers would be involved in the classroom 50% of the time, and would be involved with coaching other teachers and evaluating the other 50% of the time. This year, Governor Branstad proposed that the teachers receive a gradated pay according to teachers that would mentor other teachers, etc., but Legislature did not approve the proposition for financial reasons. The Federal government said Iowa’s file for exception could not be granted unless Iowa teachers had the peer mentoring with graduated pay, so, in Ernst’s words, “We’re kind of at a standstill. The freeze was granted as kind of a consolation prize.”
Ernst says the Pella school district already has teachers coaching other teachers in their district this year, as he says, “I think it can have a significant impact.” On the downside, Ernst says that naturally, some of the best teachers will be doing the mentoring with other teachers, which gives them less actual time with students.
In regards to how No Child Left Behind will resume in 2013 after the freeze ends, Ernst says it is not known for sure. He believes there will be a better opportunity to figure things out in the state after the election takes place, and hopefully in the earlier part of 2013, so that the school districts can plan their next school year accordingly.