More Questions than Answers:
No Child Left Behind
Anyone who knows public education will tell you that the No Child Left Behind legislation passed in 2001 has dramatically changed the educational landscape. Recently, Jane Clarenbach, NAGC's Director of Public Education & Affiliate Relations, participated in an interview concerning the impact that NCLB has had on gifted education programming and gifted students.
How has the NCLB legislation affected gifted education on a national basis?
It's fair to say that no one would disagree with the goals of NCLB: improve student achievement and ensure that all teachers are highly qualified. However, the concern for gifted and talented advocates is that the strategies within NCLB work against high-achieving students. The punitive nature of the law forces local school leaders all too often to make resource choices to address the needs of one group of students—those performing below "proficient" on a statewide test—at the expense of students already performing above the proficient level. NCLB does not provide incentives or rewards for districts doing a great job of working with above-proficient learners and, as a result, we should not be surprised that districts have shifted resources in an effort to avoid being labeled a failing school. On a more positive note, however, requiring that new teachers (grades 7-12) have degrees in the areas they teach will no doubt be extremely beneficial to the advanced learners in middle grades and above.
Click here to read one of the more recent columns on concerns related to NCLB that appeared in the Washington Post on December 27, 2005.
Click here for additional details about the NCLB Legislation.
What questions should parents of gifted students ask their local school districts regarding NCLB's affect on local gifted education?
Parents should be asking schools how they track the progress and growth of advanced learners in the district. Although the federal government does not require the data to be collected, researchers suspect that gifted students may not be making achievement gains every year. For example, in some states, fewer students are scoring at the "advanced" levels on the state's standardized tests. Although there are numerous possible explanations, parents in every state should be concerned about whether a school's focus on remediation and test preparation is limiting a teacher's ability to provide appropriately challenging instruction for advanced students. Parents should also ask about the district's definiton of a "highly qualified" teacher and whether it includes having the knowledge and skills to meet the educational needs of gifted students.
To brush up on your parent-district communication skills, visit NAGC's local advocacy page.
How can parents be good advocates locally?
Being a good advocate begins with being well informed. Parents need to be familiar with the local school district's policies and any state laws governing gifted students before they're able to have a productive conversation with school officials. It is not necessary to become an expert in gifted education, but it is important to understand the basics so that parents can ask questions and make suggestions about what the school system is doing to support gifted students.
There is a host of helpful resources, including a glossary of terms and facts and figures in the parent section and advocacy toolkit area of the NAGC website.
What long-term affect do you think NCLB will have on gifted education in this country?
NCLB was written with the right intentions, but has faltered in its implementation. Like other federal legislation, it will be changed over time by the Congress. (At the state level, it is also true that laws governing education are adjusted regularly, sometimes yearly.) Additional research, as well as citizen input, is needed to allow policy makers to eliminate NCLB's unintended consequences for advanced learners.
NCLB (which in federal law is more accurately known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), will be reauthorized by Congress in the next two years, at which point modifications will be made. It is essential that gifted education advocates begin now to gather local and state data that support changes in NCLB and also points to the need to increased federal resources for this student population. Gifted education advocates must take every opportunity to ask elected officials about about their support for advanced students.
Invite Members of Congress to visit a local gifted education program, attend a public form or candidate discussion, write a letter to the editor of your local paper, or join with other advocates by becoming a member of NAGC. There are many ways to be heard.
We've included other ideas and suggestions in the advocacy toolkit and legislative update areas of our website.
get involved today!