Box 113, Williamsport, PA 17701 Phone: 570-323-2050    Fax: 570-323-2051

No Child Left Behind Pupil Services

By Bob Cormany, PAPSA Executive Secretary

The federal government’s “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) legislation (U.S. Public Law 107-110) poses new challenges to the pupil services profession as it does to all aspects of public education. States continue to wrestle with their responses to the law even as the date for implementation rapidly approaches. How will the provisions affect the role of pupil services administrators and their staff in the coming years?

Advisory Committees:

First and foremost, pupil services administrator associations need to be intimately involved with their state department of education’s planning process for implementation of NCLB. Every state is required to create a Committee of Practitioners to advise their Department of Education each step of the way. If your state association is not represented, they should be encouraged to contact the Department of Education and express an interest in becoming active. This legislation is too important to the profession to allow others to determine the policies and procedures that will influence the pupil services role.

Persistently Dangerous
Schools:

States are required to create a formula for determining which schools fall under the definition of persistently dangerous. Most formulas are based on the number of weapons violations and incidents of violence reported by schools annually to the Department of Education. Some states have included only those violations which result in expulsions, others require that there must be a certain number of violations over a period of several years, and yet others include incidents involving staff as well as students. Since pupil service staff members are often charged with the collection and reporting of such data, they need to be familiar with the system and make certain that reporting is accurate. There will undoubtedly be efforts to cover up the true extent of violence in schools and administrators will come under pressure to avoid expulsions if that is the factor that triggers the formula. Without question, there are dangerous schools that need assistance with combating the problem. These schools will never improve if data is misreported or misrepresented. Increased counseling, social work and psychological services need to be a part of the answer to persistently dangerous schools.

Standardized Testing:

The NCLB requirement for annual standardized testing of math and reading skills in grades 3-8 will impose another burden on pupil services staff who are generally assigned responsibility for managing the testing program. While most states have some type of standardized testing in place at certain grade levels, it is usually not an every year occurrence. The choice will lie between the state creating additional levels of its test or requiring the districts to purchase their own, further depleting resources. Most states appear to be opting for the second choice, placing the expense upon the districts rather than the state. This will lead to confusion in attempts to compare state tests, which are usually of lesser quality as far as reliability and validity are concerned, and commercial tests from various publishers. The interpretation of the results, particularly for the media who will surely wish to publish the comparisons, will be a public relations nightmare, since all students must eventually reach a level identified as “competency” or the district will be penalized. There will be – and already exists – tremendous pressure to raise test scores. The negative pressure on students and the interference with teacher methodology create a “Catch –
22” situation where efforts to improve education are likely to result in its decline.

Staff:

While it would seem hard to argue with the need for highly qualified staff as measured by training and entry level testing, the fact is that such staff are missing in many schools. Each year thousands of emergency certificates are issued to permit people to teach without the level of training implied in NCLB. Charter schools in particular, which are affected by this law since they are considered part of the public school system, often have less than 25% of their staff fully certified. In urban schools, a substantial minority of teachers are emergency certified. NCLB will literally eliminate the option of granting emergency certification, leaving schools with thousands of unfilled vacancies. In pupil services this will be particularly true in the area of special education teachers, where there already exists a deficit between supply and demand. This may leave districts caught between the requirements of NCLB and IDEA.

The same problems exist with another program that usually falls under pupil services -Title I remediation. Not only will the teachers be required to meet higher standards but aides will also be impacted. It will probably be necessary to require aides to show two years of college-level education to hold a job in the Title I program; the same is not true of aides in nonfederally funded programs. Here again, where are these people to come from? Will the districts have to pay for further education?

While there are other provisions of NCLB dealing with such areas as Limited English Proficiency, data collection, migrant education and the use of technology, the areas addressed here have the most potential for impacting pupil services administrators. Whether this Administration or its successor will reconsider the provisions of the law and ameliorate some of the issues remains to be seen. For now, schools must address the law in the best way possible, knowing that the threat of financial penalty looms for those districts that are out of compliance with NCLB.