No Child Left Behind?

November 19, 2003 - Posted at 5:50 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR — A federal initiative aimed at improving education raises questions. The so-called "No Child Left Behind" law is intended to improve the education of students in academically low-performing schools.  President Bush himself supports the act that requires testing of each and every child.

But with some children does this make sense? Ashley Corter has had severe scholiosis and her lungs have not drained properly since birth.  She relies on family, teachers and the school nurse for her every need. Yet, the law requires Ashley to be tested, just like any other student.

Under the No Child Left Behind law, Ashley must be tested (assessed) accordingly to other 11th graders. Special education in the past has allowed for separate, but parallel programs. But now, the law is saying that special education students must follow an integrated program with the general curriculum. The No Child Left Behind Act requires students to be tested in one of three ways: 1) the regular benchmark or statewide assessment. 2) An assessment with modifications based on the needs of the student, such as having the test read to them, and 3) something called the alternate portfolio assessment.

Many severely disabled students like Ashley must undergo the alternate portfolio assessment. Meeting this requirement, has been particularly stressful for special ed teachers, who must be creative in producing an assessment that satisfies the state department.  These alternative assessments can be extremely time intensive with vague state requirements—even to the point of video taping testing sessions for verification purposes.

How practical is all this? Especially considering that the original purpose of special education in our schools was teaching these special kids the life skills they will need in adulthood to be as self-sustaining as possible.