2. “Struggling Students”

“There continues a national debate over “struggling students” (hard-to-teach, at-risk, special needs) and what do with them in terms of failing schools and special education. They live in no-man’s-land between No Child Left Behind and IDEA. They are often non-disabled minority children who don’t belong in special education but need remedial support. They occupy the borderlands of Response To Intervention” (cf., No Child Left Behind).

In 2009 we learn that these children have not made the gains predicted by No Child Left Behind (New York Time):

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/education/15math.html?_r=1): Scores from the National Assessment have reached a plateau:

“The trend is flat; it’s a plateau. Scores are not going anywhere, at least nowhere important,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research organization in Washington. “That means that eight years after enactment of No Child Left Behind, the problems it set out to solve are not being solved, and now we’re five years from the deadline and we’re still far, far from the goal.” In math, minority pupils continue to perform lower than non-minority pupils:

“The latest scores were especially disappointing because score gaps between white and minority students did not diminish at all since the last time the math test was administered, in 2007. On average, the nation’s fourth graders scored 240 on a 500-point scale, just as they did in 2007. White fourth graders, on average, scored 248, Hispanics scored 227 and blacks scored 222.”

So we see that the welfare of “struggling students,” the group of pupils who are over-placed in special education, is not improving with No Child Left Behind. This happens often in the “failing schools” that have difficulties administrating needed changes in instructional programs.

Momentum for change to improve school performance seems to have lessened. Teacher preparation for math instruction might not be adequate. Economic, social and demographic influences might be operating apart from the law. One possibility is that states might be reducing the difficulty of their tests and standards content, what Secretary of Education Duncan calls, “a race to the bottom,” to avoid federal sanctions.

“Either the standards movement has played out, or the No Child law failed to build on its momentum,” said Mark Schneider, who from 2005 to 2008 was commissioner of the arm of the Department of Education that oversees the National Assessment. “Whatever momentum we had, however, is gone.”

The same can be said for reducing misidentification of at-risk, “struggling students,” under IDEA 2004: Momentum has dropped off.

Reading outcomes will be published later.

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