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No Child Left Behind goals are 'tragically unrealistic'

Oct 3, 2013 - Charles W. Rodgers, Riverton

Editor:

I want to address the tragically unrealistic goals which have become standards of No Child left behind, the educational mandate under which schools and teachers struggle.

Incidentally, this information was presented years ago to the allowing Department of Education and to our own school board when they were seeking public input prior to the headlong rush to adopt in the NCLB, obviously to no avail.

NCLB standards sound good but are extremely unrealistic. NCLB requires that all students be proficient in reading, written language and math. Annual yearly progress, or AYP, benchmarks have been implemented in hopes of achieving the ultimate goal, which is that by graduation all students will function at the 12th-grade level. This puts tremendous pressure on schools and teachers, and makes it appear that they're failing to educated students adequately when the standard, which is impossible, is not met.

Here are some questions and statistical answers based on standardized achievement test:

At what level must a student have to perform, compared to his peers, in order to function at the 12th-grade, eight-month level by the end of his senior year, thereby meeting the end NCLB standard? He has to be at the 61st percentile ranking in reading, the 73rd percentile ranking with language, and the 75th percentile rank in math.

This means that only about 25 percent to 40 percent will be at the required level. Unless a school system selects students only from the top 25 percent of the general population, there's virtually no possibility of having more than 50 percent perform at grade level.

What level will a senior who is absolutely average intellectually -- at the 50th percentile rank -- achieve by the end of his senior year? On average, using group data, he will perform at the end of 11th grade in reading, mid-10th grade in written language, and early 10th in math. It is an obvious fact that 50 percent of the seniors will function lower than these levels. Not even the prototypical "absolutely average" student would meet the standards.

What about a senior whose function is in the 25th percentile rank -- statistically at the low end of "average"? He probably will read at the late eighth-grade level, write at the seventh-grade level, and do math at the early eighth-grade level.

Isn't this because of the intellectually disabled special-education populations of schools cannot meet and see will be standards? No. Intellectually disabled students, by definition, comprise 2 percent of the general school population. The entire special-education population may be around 10 percent.

Even using extremely generous calculations, at least 50 percent of the general student body will not meet the NCLB standard. That means, on average, 50 percent of the soccer team, 50 percent of the football team, 50 percent of the band, and 50 percent of the student body in general function below "grade level" and therefore do not meet standards.

Why schools, teachers and students cannot achieve NCLB goals lies within the astoundingly unrealistic standards themselves. NCLB attempts to invalidate the normal distribution curve which applies to virtually all human characteristics and endeavors, including intelligence and academic achievement.

Only those who are almost totally ignorant about statistics can require that all students be like those in the imaginary Lake Wobegon, where every child is above average.

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