Parent involvement encouraged
Greater Latrobe school officials are asking district parents to let their elected lawmakers know that they want changes in the federal No Child Left Behind law.
"Hopefully, you are all going to help us by contacting your legislators. They need to begin to hear from you," Superintendent Dr. William D. Stavisky said Thursday to a group of more than 60 parents, teachers and school board members.
They gathered at a community meeting at the new Center for Student Creativity, located in the recently renovated senior high school near Youngstown, to hear a presentation on the federal legislation, which was signed into law in 2002.
President Bush has called it "the cornerstone" of his administration.
But according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stephen Sarokon, No Child Left Behind" was designed to dismantle public education."
The law imposed mandates aimed at raising students' scores on standardized tests. One requirement is 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014.
Stavisky argued the goal is "unrealistic for students with special needs or who are unmotivated to learn."
He also contended that "the failure cycle is guaranteed" because the inherent ability and socioeconomic status in the normal distribution of people makes the goal unattainable.
"I've been around for a long time in education, and I don't think all kids do well on tests," Stavisky said. "It doesn't mean they're not smart, they're just not good test takers."
"Unfortunately, this evaluates the whole school on the basis of one test on one day," Sarokon added. "We don't want to become just a test preparation center. We want to provide a well-rounded education."
District teachers are now "working their tails off to give kids test-taking skills," Stavisky said.
"And don't assume that the tests are the way they were when you and I were kids," he told parents. "If I could get all the legislators and say, 'Take this test with me, and we'll even take the fifth-grade test,' you would see a lot of squirming people."
No Child Left Behind has a number of other requirements in such areas as teacher proficiency and attendance that many public school officials have decried as unreasonable.
It also imposes sanctions for schools that don't meet its goals and provides "very little" funding to support programs designed to help students who are not proficient, Stavisky said.
"And the sanctions are going to come to every public school, eventually," Sarokon warned. "There have to be changes made to No Child Left Behind."
Stavisky urged parents to contact state and federal lawmakers and "put these issues on their radar screens. They tell me they don't hear from many people."