Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

No Child Left Behind: The Case of Roosevelt High School

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

No Child Left Behind: The Case of Roosevelt High School

Article excerpt

Mr. Ambrosio describes how the punitive effects of NCLB are harming a school that was providing an impressive array of services to support its low-income, ethnically diverse student body.

LET ME tell you the story of one school and how the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has been affecting its teachers and the educational opportunities and outcomes of its students. Roosevelt High School, located in North Portland, Oregon, has the most ethnically diverse student population in what is the largest school district in the Pacific Northwest. It serves about 850 students from 33 countries who speak 26 languages.

Roosevelt High is situated in a low-income area of a state that has the highest unemployment and second highest hunger rate in the nation. Students often miss meals, work after school to help support themselves or their families, and move several times during the school year because of evictions, job loss, or domestic violence.

Historically, North Portland has been a dumping ground for Portland's industrial waste. It was once the site of cattle yards and slaughterhouses that poured refuse into the Columbia Slough, a waterway running through the St. John's neighborhood. In the morning, the air around the school is often fouled by fumes emitted from a nearby waste treatment plant and from pulp mills. Many students suffer from asthma and other respiratory conditions.1

Since 2001, when Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the form of NCLB, state policies of mandatory standardized testing have been codified, complete with enforcement mechanisms, at the national level. For states that wish to receive federal funds under NCLB, the law requires annual testing in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and at least once in grades 10 through 12. Tests in science - required at least once in each of the grade spans from 3 through 5, 6 through 9, and 10 through 12 - will begin in 2007-08. The Oregon Department of Education already issues annual "school report cards" for every school in the state. And these reports list a school's performance on mandatory standardized tests in reading, writing, and math, which are administered to students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10 and allow students who meet the standard to earn a Certificate of Initial Mastery in grade 10.

The Baseline: 2001-02

In 2001-02, Roosevelt was rated "unacceptable" in student performance, based on the results of the state testing and on a student behavior measure, which is a combination of attendance and dropout rates.2 In accordance with NCLB, Roosevelt was designated a low-performing school and labeled as "needing improvement." Under the law's testing and sanctions time line, Roosevelt was given two years to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) - a yearly goal calculated as the ever-increasing percentage of students in all major subgroups (racial and ethnic minorities, English-language learners, low-income students, and special education students) who must score "proficient" in reading and math if the school is to reach 100% proficiency by 2014. Those that fail to meet AYP for two years are subject to an escalating series of punitive sanctions.

But schools that failed to meet these targets for two or more years under the previous federal law are subject to penalties under the new law beginning in 2003-04. Because Roosevelt falls into this category, it has been subjected to a series of "corrective actions" at an accelerated pace - a year before they are required by NCLB.3

As of the spring of 2004, 40% of Roosevelt's students must meet or exceed state standards in reading, and 39% must do so in math. In the spring of 2003, 28% of Roosevelt's students met the reading standard, while 32% reached the math target. The district's Portland Schools Improvement Plan, however, raises the bar much higher. Roosevelt must get 68% of all students to meet the reading standards and 60% to meet the math standards in two years. …

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