No Child Left Behind, the controversial program aimed at improving English and math proficiency, continues to leave a nasty scarlet letter on many schools across the country.
Even in California, where standards are already considered high by many education authorities, successful schools under state mandates are labeled failing under NCLB.
"We have a bad law that needs to be changed," said Phyllis Peters, California Faculty Association representative, at the Oct. 20 Charter Oak board meeting.
Signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, NCLB requires all K-12 students to become 100 percent proficient in English Language Arts and math by 2014.
Every year, the percentage the federal government sets for students to be proficient or advanced increases dramatically.
This year, it is at 78.4 percent for ELA and 79 percent in math. Next year those requirements will jump by about 10 percent each.
Several schools in Glendora Unified and in Charter Oak Unified have failed to meet their AYP, according to the California Department of Education.
, , and all have missed AYP in Glendora Unified, while, and Badillo Elementary have also missed AYP in Charter Oak Unified.
Of these, La Fetra and Goddard have not made AYP for the past two years.
Goddard holds an API score of 872, only three points down from 2009-2010, but still well above the state's 800 benchmark and nearly 100 points above the state average of 778, according to the CDE.
Although Goddard saw drops in growth for Hispanic/Latino (-14 percent) and socioeconomically disadvantaged students (-17 percent), they met three out of four student growth targets and met school-wide growth for 2010-2011 under API.
However, under AYP the school is labeled failing under NCLB for those very same subgroups.
"NCLB declares that every child should be proficient in language arts and math by 2014, regardless of the challenges they face such as being English learners, special needs students," said Glendora Unified superintendent Robert Voors. "The message it sends to the school and the public is misleading and inaccurate."
Many educators have an issue with how subgroups are monitored.
Beth Smith, president of the Charter Oak Educators Association, said that all students, regardless of ability, are tested in an identical manner. She said the "one-size-fits-all" formula is problematic.
"We have an English language learner from Peru, from Mexico, some from China and Korea. They're all lumped under English language learners," Smith said of Charter Oak.
For Washington Elementary, despite drops in the Hispanic/Latino (-11 percent), socioeconomically disadvantaged (-25 percent) and English learners (-23 percent), the school still met all school-wide, student group and all target requirements. The school is still labeled failing for not meeting proficiency percentages under the same categories.
Cedargrove Elementary, also in Charter Oak, is a California Distinguished School with a score of 857, but is labeled failing under AYP.
"I don't see how NCLB has been a boon for any of us," Smith said.
Compounding the situation, schools receiving Title I funding from the federal government receive greater reprimands if they fail to meet AYP two consecutive years.
Title I schools receive funding based on the percentage of low-income and at risk students to bridge the education gap.
Any school that fails to meet AYP two consecutive years are labeled as Program Improvement.
In improvement year one, schools must outline a course of action they intend to undertake in fixing the problems. In year two, supplemental services are implemented, in year three corrective actions are taken, while beyond that restructuring plans and implementation are executed.
"I talked to the parents at an evening meeting and I shared this information," said Carlos Moran, La Fetra principal, at the Nov. 14 Glendora Unified board meeting. "They really understood the problem of getting to 100 percent."
Moran said that once the parents realized that English language learners and students who immigrated here must also be 100 percent proficient by 2014, they understood why it will be difficult to meet federal standards.
The Obama Administration has offered states who wish to opt out of NCLB to apply for waivers.
At least 39 states have applied for such waivers, which would provide two years of relief from NCLB, but Calif. passed up the opportunity for waivers after realizing the staggering costs to apply for them.
The state could spend up to $2 billion and maybe more to implement the waiver, according to the State Board of Education.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised such waivers just two months ago, but after convening with the Board, waivers will not be a reality.
"It seems like this is very costly. The deadline is very tight if not impossible," Torlakson said recently, adding that the waiver is "not so much a waiver as a substitution for a new set of requirements and a new set of challenges."
Costs include $600 million to implement Common Core Standards, $410 million to fix the 15 percent of low-performing schools and $76 million to train principals and perform teacher evaluations.
"Waivers are not the answer," Voors said. "I think an accountability system that evaluates schools more appropriately and effectively, including credit for growth and achieving established benchmarks would be a good start."