|What ‘No Child Left Behind’ Means for Parents|
What ‘No Child Left Behind’ Means for Parents
(1) What is “No Child Left Behind”?
Many parents have probably heard of the No Child Left Behind Act. This law grabbed headlines when Congress passed it in 2002 because it requires major changes in public education. Yet despite all this publicity, parents may still have questions. What exactly does the law do? How will it affect my child and my child's school? How will I notice the changes?
Basically, the law sets new standards for students, teachers, and schools and includes some federal funding to help meet the new requirements. The most obvious change for parents is that your child will now be given standardized tests nearly every year. The previous law required far less frequent testing. The law also gives parents more information and, in some cases, more choice about which school their child attends. Here's a summary of what to expect.
(2) What are the New Standards?
Since 2005, students in grades three through eight must be tested every year in math and English to ensure they're meeting state standards. Students in grades 10 through 12 will be tested at least once. By 2007, states will begin testing students in science as well.
Yearly tests will let parents know on a more frequent basis whether their child is meeting state standards. The new law also requires school districts to provide parents with an annual "report card" that shows how well students in each school performed. The information is broken out by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, and other categories so you can tell how well each school is doing in educating minority students or those with disabilities.
Since the end of the 2005-2006 school year, your child's teachers must be "highly qualified" in the subjects that they teach. States will determine what skills teachers must have to be considered "highly qualified," but the requirements could include a degree in the subject they teach or extra training.
States must provide annual report cards about teacher qualifications, including the percentage of classrooms in the state not taught by highly qualified teachers. Principals must also maintain records to determine whether a school’s teachers meet the requirements. Parents can request this information from the school or the district office. Parents at schools that receive Title I funding may request specific information about the credentials of their child's classroom teachers.
Each year, schools must increase the number of students who achieve state standards. At the end of 12 years, all students should be able to pass the tests. Schools that fail to achieve this progress will be targeted for improvements. The result could be increased funding or changes in staff and curriculum. The law requires school districts to notify parents if their child's school has been identified as needing improvement because it failed to increase the number of students meeting state standards.
(3) More Choice for Low-Income Parents
About half of all public schools receive Title I funding to help students from low-income families. If such a school is targeted for improvement and fails after two years, parents can choose to transfer their child to another school or enroll in free tutoring. Parents have this choice for as long as the school fails to perform adequately.
Low-income parents may also transfer their child if their school has been identified as "persistently dangerous." Schools may be considered dangerous if programs have failed to prevent violence or the illegal use of drugs or alcohol. Parents also are eligible for a transfer if their child has been a victim of a violent crime at school.
(4) Requirements for Parent Involvement
You can work with the school to design the best education program for your child. The new education law requires schools to create opportunities for parents to get involved. Low-income schools must have written policies on how they will involve parents, and they must seek input from parents on how to improve poor-performing schools. The law also gives school officials flexibility. This means parents can work with school boards, principals, and others to help design the best education program for your child.
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