Paper plates to carry messages

Published 6:28 pm Sunday, September 26, 2010

Staff Writer

Teachers from Beaufort County and four other eastern North Carolina counties will take their concerns about a major piece of legislation governing public education in the United States to the doorstep Monday of U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C.
Dubbed Send a Message Plate Event, local members of the N.C. Association of Educators will join state NCAE President Sheri Srickland in hand-delivering paper plates inscribed with messages on how to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to Jones’ Greenville office.
They are expected to meet with William Moore, an aide to Jones, a Republican from Farmville.
“This is a different type of town-hall meeting,” Strickland said, in a press release announcing the meeting. “Educators are bringing the debate to him and we have lots of important ideas to give him about how this legislation needs to be changed to meet the needs of students and educators.
“Right now, the law overemphasizes punitive sanctions and still relies too heavily on test scores as a means for categorizing schools and evaluating teachers.”
ESEA, enacted in 1965, funds professional development, instructional materials, educational program resources and the promotion of parental involvement in elementary and secondary public schools.
The current reauthorization of the ESEA is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It requires states to annually administer standardized tests. School districts and individual schools that receive Title I federal funding must make “adequate yearly progress,” known as AYP, in those test scores or face sanctions. 
For example, each year, fifth-grade students must do better than previous years in those tests.
Many educators have said that while the rationale behind No Child Left Behind is a good thing because of its focus on educational equity, it has been implemented in a way that bases its entire accountability system on a test.
Among those is Julie Sizemore, president of the Beaufort County Association of Educators, one of those expected to attend the meeting Monday.
“No Child Left Behind is a wonderful idea, but it is not realistic because every child is not the same,” she said. “Testing, as it stands now, is unfair to a lot of students.”
Under No Child Left Behind, AYP is determined by a school’s ability to meet its individual target goals, which are based on the school’s student population.
Schools evaluate students according to race, family income, English proficiency and other factors. If any group falls short on state reading and math tests, the school does not pass, under No Child Left Behind.
In 2009-2010, four of Beaufort County’s 14 public schools met 100 percent of federal markers under No Child Left Behind, but three schools missed AYP because just one single group at each school failed to meet its goal.
And its all-or-nothing approach to goals has led educators nationwide and members of the Obama administration to consider broad changes in how schools are judged to be succeeding or failing under No Child Left Behind, as well as for the elimination of the law’s 2014 deadline for bringing every American child to academic proficiency.
A spokesman for Jones on Friday said it’s too early to know what form the reauthorization of the act will take, but that Jones has for many years supported less federal oversight and more local control of education.
If the reauthorization of ESEA “resembles No Child Left Behind, he’ll likely oppose the bill,” said Jones spokeswoman Catherine Fodor.