Wednesday, March 01, 2006

NCLB effect on ESL and spec ed kids - an editorial comment

Warning...this is a soap box editorial from the blogmaster.

Although this blog is primarily focused on content related to cognitive abilities and intelligence, it is no secret that I also wear another hat....consultant to the U of Mn National Center on Educational Outcomes re: issues related to inclusion of kids with disabilities in NCLB (No Child Left Behing)-related state assessment accountability systems. For that matter, I should lay my cards on the table and indicate that I'm a strong advocate for including as many kids that are "on the margins" in NCLB-driven assessment systems.

Why? Although NCLB has a number features that don't jive with educational psychological research and theory, to me NCLB has one overriding significant positive feature. Namely, regular educators are now responsible, for the first time I can remember, for the performance of the "kids on the margins." Although there are a ton of logistical and psychometric issues re: how to include more kids with disabilities in groups assessments, how to make assessessments more accessible, etc., the fact that the general education system is now held responsible for these kids is, IMHO, the most important outcome of NCLB...vis-a-vis the requirement to report performance of different subgroups for schools (e.g., special education; ESL; etc). These kids can no longer be ignored.

In Education Week there is an article (click here) re: how this NCLB general-other education "hook" is working. Although the article deals with how regular education is now paying more attention to the education of ESL kids, it is my contention (and I know it is happening from what I hear via my NCEO work) that NCLB is having the same effect where general education is now paying more attention to the education of kids with disabilities. This NCLB accountability "hook" is very, very important. We need to keep it and fight against attempts to dilute the law vis-a-vis increasing the exclusion rates of more kids with disabilities in state accountability systems. If we lose this "hook", the education of kids with disabilities could be set back decades...back the the small rooms in the basements of schools...sorry, a little melodrama just hit me :)

Of course, all is not rosey. As the article points out, their are negative effects that seem to be happening to ESL kids because of this NCLB hook..namely, the narrowing of the curriculum to "teach to the test." Somehow these unintended outcomes need to be addressed.

However, the key point for this personal editorial is that the general-education/special population accountability hook is one of the best things ever to happen to kids who are on the margins in our schools. We need to fight and maintain this hook...the Education Week article illustrates that it is having a positive impact on making general education pay attention more to these kids.

In the same issue there was another interesting article re: the approval of states to use a growth model for NCLB accountability (click here to view)

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