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Va. Schools Labeled as Failure, but NCLB Real Failure

According to State Superintendent Patricia Wright

By Sara Beladi
|  Wednesday, Aug 17, 2011  |  Updated 3:55 PM EDT
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Va. Schools Labeled as Failure, but NCLB Real Failure

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Several states, including Virginia, hope to rub out failing grades with waivers. Some are questioning Education Secretary Duncan's authority to grant such waivers.

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Virginia failed because the test was unfair, says State Superintendent Patricia Wright of the state's far from adequate 2011 Adequate Yearly Progress scores.

Sixty-two percent of Virginia schools landed on the the No Child Left Behind blacklist for failing to meet the law's benchmarks, according to the results released Thursday. At least 86 percent of a school's students had to show proficiency on state reading tests, and 85 percent had to pass state math tests for the institution to succeed under the law this year. Twenty-nine of the state's 132 school divisions also failed.

The Virginia Department of Education on Thursday issued a statement calling for an overhaul of NCLB.

“Accountability is not advanced by arbitrary rules and benchmarks that misidentify schools,” Wright said.

Virginia is not the only state unhappy with the controversial federal law. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had called the law a "slow-motion train wreck" and a handful of states --among them Montana and South Dakota -- have refused to continue raising testing targets as NCLB requires, despite warnings that doing so could cost them millions of dollars in federal aid.

The target passing rates for standardized tests -- the same for all student subgroups -- increase each year to meet the federal law’s goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014.

“While this is a laudable goal -- and one we must continue to strive toward -- it is not a basis for a workable accountability system,” said Wright in the release.

States will soon be allowed to apply for relief from the sanctions placed on schools that are labeled as failing, according to a Monday announcement by Duncan.

Wright said she will recommend that the Virginia Board of Education apply for the legal waiver, which is intended to give the state time to set up a new accountability system.

“During the coming weeks, I will begin a discussion with the state board on creating a new model for measuring yearly progress that maintains high expectations for student achievement, recognizes growth -- overall and by subgroup -- and accurately identifies schools most in need of improvement.”

Duncan says he is still devising the waiver plan and will make details available in September.

The law’s weaknesses have undermined education reform, he told the Washington Post earlier this month.

“The states are desperately asking for us to respond."

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