The federal law designed to improve schools nationwide is up for renewal. Most teachers favored the idea, though many found flaws with the first edition of the congressional mandate sent out to districts across the nation. This week Keokuk Community Schools Superintendent Jane Babcock was among those who went to testify about what could use fixing.
Babcock also told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that local schools were hard at work before No Child Left Behind ever came along. She says there are before- and after-school programs in grade school that are tied to standards and benchmarks. "We’re doing lots of things to assist kids and help them get the skills that they need, but there are always more things that we can do." She says figures about school success can be misleading, like a report that her district has a low graduation rate.
"They don’t count it unless you complete your high-school career in four years," she says. "You don’t count." But she had 26 kids go out and get G-E-D diplomas, and others who chose alternate routes. "This isn’t the way we used to calculate graduation rate," Babcock says, and in a district with lots of diversity, life issues and teen pregnancies complicating the students’ lives, they need the funding to make a difference for those kids.
With state lawmakers poised to raise the dropout age to eighteen, Babcock says schools need funding for alternative schools and courses to handle those kids who aren’t making it in regular classes. "It’s not about the accountability," Babcock says, saying teachers don’t object to being held accountable for student success. But if they don’t have the funding to keep class sizes small, offer reading specialists and other help to students, "it becomes for naught," she says.
Superintendent Babcock says Keokuk’s had an alternative school for 25 years, and runs extra-credit programs before and after school as well.