2002-09-07 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

Fine Tuning Education Reform:
Federal, State And City Changes
By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Fine Tuning Education Reform:
Federal, State And City Changes

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation of 2002 is about to become a reality. Parents, as never before, are to become active partners and have an expanded role in their child’s education.

On January 8, 2002 President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act – the fulfillment of a promise he made during his Presidential campaign. Sweeping changes for all states are to take effect September 2002. This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary legislation redefines in a very dramatic way the Federal role in K-12 education and seeks to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers. Business and the community have long been pressing for these changes.

Although the act relates to all grades K-12, there are important implications for early childhood programs. One special focus is directed at ensuring that every child reads well by the end of the third grade. The Federal law is putting Reading first starting as early as Pre K with the "Early Reading First Program" and the "Even Start Comprehensive Family Literacy program". The law outlines the relationship of success in early reading with later school achievement.

Priorities for programs and grants include:

…High quality oral language program and literature rich environments for preschool and school age children.

…Stimulating parent-child interactions in activities helping children learn to read.

…Encouraging parents to learn how to be an important partner with the teacher in educating children – how to converse with their children and with the teacher – how to interpret school report cards.

…Reinforcing the idea that learning to read is not only the job of the school and the teacher but also of the parent.

…Helping children and families to foster emotional, behavioral and social development and to be able to identify the characteristics that put children at risk for school and life success.

The most pressing items of the law are directed to schools designated as "in need of improvement" under the existing Title I program. Such schools now must provide "supplemental services" or "opportunities for choice" for each child in need of improvement. If necessary, transportation must be provided for choice, for tutoring and after school help.

High on the list of requirements is the recognition that schools must inform parents of the number of certified and non-certified teachers in the school.

Broad change in policy such as those outlined in the NCLB law cannot be accomplished over night. It will take time to train administrators, teachers and related services personnel to meet the new regs. But be assured the NCLB philosophy will become an integrated facet in this year’s education in all schools across the United States.

New York State schools, parents and children are already on board for many of the recommended changes. Educational reform in New York State has been a top priority since 1996 when the new standards were set for graduation. In 2003 (a seven year phase in) students in high school will be required to pass Regents exams in five different subjects in order to graduate. In addition to English and Math, they must pass exams in global studies, U. S. history and science. While many students pass such exams well before their senior year, others go down to the wire or fall short.

The Regents and the State Education Department have been leading educational reform; so far change to align New York State policy is well under way and needs only to be fine-tuned to meet the NCLB regs.

You will be hearing much more about NCLB as the year progresses. You may also have many questions to ask to prepare for the expanded new role of parents. Stay tuned for developments!

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