Closing the education gap

Ben Clark

Despite sharing the same good intentions and similar goals, Evanston educators are expressing frustration with the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

And it seems the law isn’t going away.

Signed into law on Jan. 8, 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act enjoyed broad bipartisan support as policy makers aimed to close the achievement gap among all students, regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic background. The law stipulates that by 2014 every American student should be proficient in reading and math, as determined by state assessment tests.

No Child Left Behind requires schools to test their students to chart academic growth. In the 2003-04 school year, District 65 administered math and reading tests to students in third, fifth, and eighth grades. Under the law, schools’ test scores are analyzed with ethnicity and socioeconomic status in mind in order to ensure that all students are educated equally.

As the election draws near, candidates are not clashing over the legitimacy of the ideals of No Child Left Behind. Instead they debate how effective it can be in its current form.

Limited resources

Critics say the law is too rigid in its standards, doesn’t provide teachers with meaningful test results and is underfunded.

“I believe our district and our school have always tried to close the gap,” said Kathy Roberson, assistant principal at Haven Middle School, 2417 Prairie Ave. But Roberson said the stresses the law has put on educators are contrary to the goals of the legislation.

“I think it’s bigger than what I can do here between 8 and 3,” she said. “There’s more than I could possibly do during that time. In order to achieve my goal, we need to have more support.”

Roberson said that for schools to perform at the level stipulated by No Child Left Behind, the district needs more funding from the law and more support from families.

District 65 and District 202 administrators said they were prepared for the law because the goals of the law are identical to their own.

“We were already focused on under-achieving groups, so that has been a focus and it continues to be a focus,” said Judith Levinson, director of research, evaluation and assessment at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave.

Too many bills to pay

But as teachers work to prepare their students for these tests, some educators are lamenting their inadequate financial means.

“It is somewhat funded, but not to the degree that it needs to be implemented,” Roberson said.

District 65 Assistant Superintendent Barbara Hiller said six schools in the district receive Title I funds — federal funds given to schools with economically underprivileged students.