Mountain View Voice

Opinion - May 20, 2011

Just saying no to federal funding

It is a rare occasion when a local school district turns thumbs down on a grant worth nearly half a million dollars a year.

But Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Craig Goldman is doing just that — saying the district will refuse $450,000 of "Title I" funds that are tied to unattainable goals in the No Child Left Behind program launched during George W. Bush's presidency. We support Goldman's analysis, which finds that under NCLB some schools are required to meet unrealistic standards or face unfair penalties.

In essence, the troublesome piece of Title I requires that students meet ever-increasing proficiency on statewide STAR tests that will require a 100 percent proficiency rating in all subjects by the 2013-14 school year — even among subgroups such as low income, English learners or special education students. As we have often said in this space, the inability of NCLB to adjust to typically under-performing subgroups is penalizing many Mountain View schools and others in California which have high percentages of English learners.

Goldman told the Voice last week that many Mountain View Whisman schools are in the failing category due to faults in NCLB. Theuerkauf and Monta Loma elementary schools are in "program improvement" because English learners at Theuerkauf and special education students at Monta Loma did not meet the proficiency standards. The designation puts the schools at risk of losing Title I funds, and gives parents the option of moving their students to another school within the district, Goldman said.

The option can actually have a "segregating effect," Goldman said, because students leaving a school for this reason are rarely those identified for the program improvement. Top students, rather than those who struggle to meet NCLB criteria, often are those who leave.

Luckily, the federal Department of Education is expected to revise the NCLB legislation this year, according to a recently-released report outlining the changes that should address many of Goldman's criticisms.

One section of the report said NCLB "provides states with incentives to lower standards. It mislabels schools as failing and imposes one size fits all interventions. It doesn't do enough to recognize student growth or school progress."

If this long-overdue reform legislation is approved, Goldman said the district could begin accepting funds again in the 2012-13 school year. If the measure carries out the promises made in the report, it will be a major improvement to a program that has grown increasingly out of touch with the reality that many schools are facing.

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