Saturday, September 1, 2007


In a recent editorial The Home News asked what will it take for failing schools in the No Child Left Behind evaluation process to make the grade and questioned the value of the No Child Left Behind Law. While the No Child Left Behind Law has some significant limitations, particularly in the handling of Special Education and Limited English Proficient students, I believe there have been many positives to this law.

As a Board of Education member in South River I have seen this law increase the focus on improving academic achievement within our school system. By grouping results by sub-groups the law forces communities to address the achievement gaps existing in lower economic, ethnic and certain educational sub-groups. NCLB has created a sense of educational urgency to improve performance. Administrators and teachers want to succeed on these assessments (no one wants to be labeled a failing school) and they are working harder to have their students succeed.

In South River, after school homework programs have been initiated and administrators and faculty are continually looking for research based curriculums and programs that have a proven track record for increasing student achievement. Our administration committed to a new Math program based on the techniques used in Singapore - an international standout in Math performance. After two years this new curriculum has created outstanding results. For example, in our fourth grade we had a 36% increase in proficient Math scores this past year and an astounding 118% increase in Advanced Proficient scores.

However, to take our education to even higher levels of performance we will need to create a system that defines, measures the effectiveness and rewards the major elements of academic success - outstanding teaching, administration and family involvement. One change needed is to NCLB testing and evaluation process itself. To accurately measure effective teaching the growth in learning for a child must be measured every year and standards for growth must be created based on where a child began the year. Now that students are tested every year from grades 3-8 we have the opportunity to evaluate teaching performance based on this growth model.

Once a growth model is in place school districts can, at least partly, link the achievement of students to the evaluations and ultimately the compensation of the teachers and administrators that deliver it. Many educators argue that it is unfair to base their evaluations exclusively on test scores and I readily agree.
However, test scores can and should be apart of the overall measure of effective teaching and administration. Other measurements could include: the exposure and implementation of continuing education, effectiveness in working with and assisting co-workers and parents, parent involvement with the child, Principal and administration observations and class preparation. Whatever the criteria for evaluation, to continue to improve education performance of students in our state we will need to work with the Teacher and Administration Unions in developing a fair system that more accurately defines, measures, evaluates and rewards effective teaching and administration.

Bill England

Candidate for State Assembly
18th District

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