Accelerating Change Through Shared Leadership
n What Are Your Major Change Initiatives?

Asperger's Syndrome
n What is Asperger's Syndrome?
n No Child Left Behind - What About Mine?
n How Parents Can Work With Educators
n A Success Story

No Child Left Behind - What About Mine?

The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was passed in 2001. What does this mean to you? NCLB requires that schools take whatever steps are necessary so that all students - including special education students - become "proficient" by 2014.

What is proficiency?
What does "proficient" mean? Under NCLB, each of the 50 states was required to create "content standards." The content standards spell out what a student in each grade level should know, and be able to do, in each subject - like math, reading and writing, science, and so on. Each state has created tests (or purchased them from a testing company) which are given in the spring to find out which students at each grade level are proficient.

Schools must pay attention to special ed students
There are some differences from state to state in the level of difficulty in their standards, and the tests at each grade level. Many educators have complained about this. However, one overall result of NCLB has been to require states to come up with consistent, common curriculum for each subject and each grade level for all school districts in the state - no matter what school a student attends. It has also required states to begin allowing special education students to have the same curriculum as their non-special education peers, instead of a watered-down substitute. Finally, because there are penalties ("sanctions") for states that do not meet NCLB requirements, it has resulted in schools' working harder to make sure all students - even special education students - successfully learn the common curriculum.

Annual progress is required
Each fall, when schools and districts get the results of the tests their students took in the spring, the test scores of students in special education are pulled out separately. This is called a "subgroup." This is so that teachers, principals, and school district officials can study their progress closely. Under NCLB, each of the 50 states requires schools and districts to show that the special education subgroup is making adequate progress toward proficiency!

Special education students now given the same curriculum
Before NCLB, many states allowed school districts to use a different curriculum for students in special education. This was based on the philosophy that disabled students could not learn as quickly and easily as non-disabled students. Most of us who are parents of special education students would agree - sort of. School is hard for our kids. Unfortunately, before NCLB, many schools and districts had a habit of not expecting very much from our children. In some cases, they didn't push them hard enough. In many, many cases, they didn't expect very much, and when our kids had trouble, they didn't automatically look for better ways to help them learn. They simply had them repeat the same, low-level material again and again. NCLB has forced schools to look for better methods to make sure our kids learn what other kids their age are learning.

Allowances for very disabled students
What about students who are so disabled, the grade level curriculum would be completely inappropriate for them? Under NCLB, states allow districts to give a more basic annual test to a few very disabled students. The number of students taking this test of very simple skills can be no larger than 1% of the total students in the district.

What about reading problems?
What about students who are not severely cognitively disabled, but they are so behind, they can't read the grade level textbooks? In most cases, these students must still take the state test, which concerns many educators, and may feel unfair to students and parents. However, to catch them up faster, some schools have put a "replacement curriculum" in place for reading and writing. These new programs are dramatically different from the Remedial Reading programs of the past, where students typically stayed permanently behind. The new programs, such as Read 180, Fast Track, and others, are designed to help students progress faster. As their reading improves, their other subjects improve as well.

A year's growth in a year is not enough
In the past, students on Individual Education Plans were expected to make 1-year growth in math and language arts each year. Obviously, if they were way behind when they were first placed in special education, they never caught up.
The replacement curriculums - which are also used for regular education students who are behind, as well as special education students - are "accelerating" curriculums, not "remedial" curriculums. Teachers attend several days of training to learn the precise teaching methods used in these programs. Some, like Read 180, include a small segment of work on the computer, but all of them depend on the skill of the teacher to deliver the program correctly to get the best results.

How effective schools are catching kids up
Schools with well-designed programs place students in replacement curriculums for reading/writing, where they work until they can read at a level within two years of their own grade level. Then they are placed back in the regular English language arts curriculum, but with daily extra time and support during the regular school day. The most successful examples of scheduling for extra time and support put students in the "pre-teach" class right before their regular English class, so that they can get previews of the day's lesson, such as vocabulary words and concepts that are going to be taught during the regular class. Both special education and regular education students may be in the pre-teach group, and the Resource Specialist may team-teach the pre-teach class with the regular teacher, and/or the RS aide may be present to support the special education students.

Younger students
What about younger students who aren't years behind yet, but are having trouble learning to read? Newer elementary school reading programs are designed with daily time built in for pre-teaching. The teacher works with one or more small groups every day before the regular lesson, to do the pre-teaching. These groups may have different students in them from lesson to lesson, depending on what is being taught. In schools that have Reading Recovery programs, first graders who need extra help are taught individually by the Reading Recovery teacher for 30 minutes every day for up to 20 weeks before a decision is made to consider them for special education. In districts with very strong early intervention programs, the special education subgroup is relatively small.

Questions to ask
Parents should ask questions about the programs that are serving their special education children, such as:

  • What grade levels are my child's math and reading performance right now?
  • How long should I expect my child to be in this program?
  • What is the success rate?
  • How will I know my child's progress from week to week, month to month?
  • What will we do if the program isn't helping?
  • How can I arrange to go visit this program in action?
  • Can we discuss how my child did on the last state test, compared to the one before that?
  • What do I need to do as a parent to make sure this program is successful for my child?


  b Not Just Surviving But Thriving
  b Supporting Principals to Create Shared Leadership  
  b Making a Difference, One Child at a Time  
  b A Team Approach to Using Student Data  
  b Fostering Shared Leadership  
  b Japanese Lesson Study Comes to California  
  b Leaders in Transition  
  b Structural and Cultural Shifts to Change the Status Quo  
  b High Fidelity, Creative Teaching  
  b Professional Learning Communities for Schools in Sanctions  
  b Leadership is a Beach  

All articles posted by permission of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA)