In The Mix

Kizner Playing Role In Future Of No Child Left Behind Law

Posted: July 19, 2013

HARRISONBURG — A local education leader has a hand in shaping what national school accountability might look like post-No Child Left Behind.

Harrisonburg City Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner is a member of the governing board of the American Association of School Administrators, which is closely following the rewrite of the No Child legislation. The organization is a public education advocacy group representing more than 13,000 educators in the United States and throughout the world.

At a legislative conference this month, Kizner met with representatives of Virginia’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, to give an educator’s perspective on legislation now before Congress. 

The annual legislative meeting touched on other topics, but Kizner said the highlight was discussions about NCLB.

“The House and Senate, both in committee, have adopted a bill,” Kizner said.

The bills provide alternatives to the much-criticized NCLB system, which was put into place in 2001 and established a federal system for tracking student progress.

Called unrealistic by many educators, No Child called for 100 percent of students — and those in subgroups based on ethnicity, income and learning disabilities — to pass standardized tests in math and reading by 2014. In Virginia, students take Standard of Learning tests, which were created to comply with the federal system.

In June 2012, Virginia received a two-year No Child Left Behind waiver that allowed the state to come up with a new way to show student progress to the U.S. Department of Education. The state’s present system still requires a certain percentage of students to pass tests. But rather than setting a blanket score, like NCLB, the state sets passing rates based on how students did in the previous year. Educators have said that system is more realistic.

“We want some consistency; we want to know what the rule will be,” Kizner said. “What the concern is from our association is that every time a new waiver is approved the rules could change.”

Both the Senate and House bills ask states to come up with their own accountability systems that would still require school divisions to report student achievement. The House bill, called the Student Success Act, also would prevent the federal government from placing sanctions on school divisions not meeting accountability targets and calls for more flexibility in how federal funds are given to states.

The bill could be voted on today.

The Senate bill, called the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, would allow states to keep NCLB waivers they received from the Department of Education or adopt one. It also calls for states to identify the lowest-performing schools and schools that have achievement gaps across student subgroups and provide support for them.

“It is a common-sense federal law that puts accountability back at the local level,” Kizner said. “[The Senate] bill has stronger accountability measures, greater federal involvement, but protects more funding. The bottom line is both bills have areas of concerns and both bills have some positive things associated with it.”

Though the bills have a long road before they would become law, Kizner said he is happy to be part of the process.

“It gives us some insight to some of the federal dialogue,” he said. “We get an understanding of how some of the laws are written and have a chance to influence it before it goes to a vote.”

Kizner is one of three superintendents representing the commonwealth on the AASA. Each state has its own governing board members.

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com



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