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Five Years After No Child Left Behind, NM Still Plays Catch-up

January 8, 2007

It's been five years since President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind act into law, overhauling the way schools are evaluated and funded. Nationwide, over 100 education, children's and civil rights groups are calling on Congress to make several changes to the law. Here in New Mexico, educators are also taking a critical look at the aftermath of the massive education reform law, only days after our state was ranked last overall in Education Week's "Chance for Success Index 2007." State Education Secretary Veronica Garcia says schools need help to fight the effects of poverty.

"I think there needs to be additional funding coming at the federal level to help students that face barriers or challenges to learning, and poverty is a large one."

New Mexico has one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation. No Child Left Behind has been criticized for not providing enough federal funding to help meet the law's tough new standards.

Tom Sullivan is the director of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators and he says the punitive nature of the law is actually leaving a number of schools - and students - far behind.

"A school that falls short in one out of 36 categories, which may have simply been attendance rate, is branded as a failing school. Some people don't take the time or have the opportunity to sift through the data and really see 'wow, this isn't a failing school, it's a high-performing school.'"

Sullivan adds that the emphasis on standards and ratings has increased levels of stress and morale problems among school staff. Dozens of groups are calling on the new Congress to replace No Child Left Behind's emphasis on testing with reforms to improve school quality and close achievement gaps.

The Education Week report is online at www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2007/17csi.h26.html.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM