No Child Left Behind
Presented by the
Colorado Association of School Executives
Colorado Association of School Boards
Colorado Education Association
Colorado BOCES Association
April 13, 2005
A number of people, representing state education associations and groups of practitioners,
contributed to the development of this paper. The following individuals are recognized for
Colorado Association of School Executives
John Hefty, Jana Caldwell
Colorado Association of School Boards
Ken DeLay, Kathy Shannon
Colorado Education Association
Colorado BOCES Association
Dave Van Sant, Dale McCall
Front Range Title I Directors
Terri Howard, Evelyn Jacobi, Millie King
Colorado and No Child Left Behind
Recommended changes to the state plan and to the federal law
The focus of public education policy at federal and state levels for the last 40 years
has been to provide universal access to education. Creating opportunities for
students who have been marginalized in the past (e.g. poor, minority, special needs,
and English language learners) has been the federal government’s primary role.
In recent years a changing world economy and shifting demographics mean that our
current system of public education no longer fully meets the needs of our society.
State and federal leaders have now shifted the focus of public education to universal
This changing mission has been at the heart of Colorado’s school reform efforts
since the early 1990s. It resulted in creating state standards, the Colorado School
Assessment Program (CSAP), and School Accountability Reports (SARs), all
designed with the intent of producing proficient learners in K-12 education. Our
education system is now expected to be successful with all students.
Positive impacts of NCLB
The promise of No Child Left Behind is great. We believe that its focus on the
achievement of all students is the right thing to do, both for maintaining and
building the strength of our democracy and for exploiting our human potential.
NCLB has had numerous positive impacts on public education in our state:
1. We are more focused on educating all students.
2. We are looking at annual progress and results.
3. We are using data to improve instruction, and we are expanding our
instructional repertoires to meet student needs.
4. We are more focused on involving parents of under-represented students.
5. We are targeting resources more precisely and using research-based
strategies to meet student needs.
Flexibility needed at the state level
There are multiple ways of accomplishing the goals of NCLB. Colorado’s current
plan is basic and lacks the flexibility needed to provide for an educationally sound
and collaborative approach. Our recommendations have been carefully and widely
After three years of implementing No Child Left Behind, we believe two important
sections of the law need to be considered in the changes that we are recommending.
First, Section 9527 of NCLB states that nothing in the Act authorizes the federal
government “to mandate, direct, or control a state, local education agency or school
curriculum, program of instruction or allocation of state or local resources, or
mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not
paid for under this Act.” In addition, Section 9401 of NCLB says that the U.S.
Secretary of Education, “may waive any statutory or regulatory requirements”
provided that states share how these changes will improve the quality of
In this paper we describe the changes that need to be made to Colorado’s plan and
to NCLB. The changes we propose reflect sound research-based instructional
practices and, while not unanimous agreement, certainly consensus among our
groups about what works in a Colorado context.
What Needs to Change
1. Special Education
We believe in the importance of educating all students, including students with
disabilities. These students need to meet high standards through rigorous learning
opportunities. We share the following concerns about NCLB in relation to students
Contradictions between NCLB and IDEA. One concern that we and leaders in
other states have is the many contradictions between the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and NCLB. These conflicts were identified on
page five of Pennsylvania’s position paper submitted to the U.S. Secretary of
Education and have become the source of a lawsuit in Illinois:
NCLB requires that all students progress at a similar rate, while IDEA
expressly states that students progress at different rates;
NCLB uses standardized data sources to address progress, while IDEA
requires the use of multiple data sources aligned to student attributes;
NCLB uses chronological age and grade as the basis for state assessment,
while IDEA uses individualized instruction and assessment of a student’s
NCLB requires that student progress be measured by a “proficient” score on
state tests, while IDEA progress is based on an Individualized Education
Program (IEP) team decision with test scores as one factor.
NCLB caps the use of alternative assessments for students with disabilities
at one percent (1%), while the IDEA requires that the use of alternative
assessments be an IEP team decision.
Unfairly penalizing high-performing districts. A number of districts in
Colorado achieved at levels that, in any other walk of life, would be considered
exemplary. Yet under the “all or nothing” rules of NCLB, these districts are labeled
as having failed to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) requirements. For
example last year, Boulder Valley Schools met 140 of 142 required performance
targets, Littleton Schools met 124 of 128 targets, and Durango Schools met 91 of 94
targets. These districts failed to meet their targets primarily because of the
performance of a small number of students with disabilities.
Determining the number of students who comprise the special education
subgroup. Because performance measures are calculated based upon the number of
students who belong to a particular subgroup (i.e. special education), many schools
and districts are labeled as failing based upon the performance of a very small
group of students with disabilities in comparison to the school or district population.
Colorado has established subgroup numbers of 30 students. Nationwide subgroup
numbers range from five to 200.
In accordance with the principles of IDEA, we believe a body of evidence should be
accumulated to measure the performance of students with disabilities for purposes
of meeting NCLB requirements. This body of evidence might include performance
and growth on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) and CSAP-A
tests, district standardized tests in math and reading, and achievement of goals
developed in the IEP.
Other performance markers might be included as well. Schools should be recognized
for successfully moving students out of special education into regular education. In
addition, we would like to collaborate with the Colorado Department of Education to
explore other ways to determine the number of students included in subgroups.
2. English Language Learners (ELL)
One of the principles upon which NCLB was developed is the belief that decisions
about instructional practice should be research-based. Too often decisions are made
without regard to what scientific research says is sound instructional practice.
Schools that have large numbers of English language learners face unique
challenges. Acquiring a new language is a complex process that occurs over time.
Most experts believe, and research suggests, that transition into the English
language can take up to seven years. It seems fundamentally unfair to require
students, while they are learning English, to be tested both in the acquisition of a
new language and in the subject content.
We believe schools should be able to use English proficiency of ELL students as a
measure of achievement rather than substantive content knowledge for a three-year
3. Annual Progress
NCLB requires annual progress for all students until they become academically
proficient in core subjects. Because of the challenges many students face, they are
far from reaching academic proficiency. Nonetheless, many of these students are
showing substantial growth. The results of this growth are not currently reflected in
NCLB reporting requirements.
Student growth and improvement. We believe that all students should be held to
high standards and academic growth. All students should be measured against
their growth in the previous year.
Same subject – same subgroup identification. Under NCLB requirements,
schools that do not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for two consecutive years
are to be placed on school improvement status. However, if one subgroup is not
proficient in reading one year and another subgroup is not proficient in math the
second year, then the school would be placed on the improvement cycle. We believe
this unfairly penalizes schools and districts.
Using advanced achievement as the “other indicator.” This indicator is being
applied even to subgroup populations in which certain limitations are a given.
English language learners and students with disabilities are the areas of most
concern for all schools. Some schools have not met AYP because one percent (1%) of
students in this subgroup are not able to perform at the advanced level.
Additionally, there is no option for ELL students to take a Spanish assessment
beyond grade 4, thus limiting opportunities for students to demonstrate advanced
Counting the same students in multiple subgroups. Sometimes the same
students fall within two or more subgroups. For example, a student may be ELL
and have disabilities. That same student also may be poor and have minority
status. Under the current rules, these students’ academic progress must be reported
in each subgroup to which they belong. That means schools and districts are thus
required to count the same struggling student’s performance two, three, even four
times. Again, we believe this unfairly penalizes schools and districts.
We wish to collaborate with CDE to seek resolution to the concerns listed above. We
believe these issues can be addressed using one or more of the following approaches:
(1) making changes to the Colorado plan, (2) partnering with CDE to seek waivers
from the U.S. Department of Education, or (3) partnering with CDE to recommend
changes to NCLB.
A. Colorado is currently developing a measurement that compares student growth
for an individual student in one year to that student’s growth in subsequent years.
This measure, which by statute must now be reported on the School Accountability
Report, also should be a factor in determining whether the school and school district
have made AYP.
B. Colorado should seek a waiver to the present regulations and require only
schools and districts that do not make progress for two consecutive years in the
same subject and subgroup be placed on an improvement cycle.
C. We request that the “other indicator” include both proficient and advanced
D. We request that CDE work with us to design a waiver request to change the
NCLB provision that now requires Colorado to count students who fall into multiple
subgroups several times so that these students are counted only once.
4. Support for Struggling Schools
The law requires that schools placed on improvement status receive technical
support from the state to help them achieve adequate yearly progress. We recognize
that CDE has very limited resources with which to provide this kind of support.
However, we have seen limited efforts by CDE to collaborate with districts to
provide training or resources that are desperately needed to build capacity among
staff for increasing student achievement.
We wish to collaborate with CDE and other interested parties to identify resources
and to develop a state plan that would enhance and extend the work of the School
Support Teams in addressing the needs of schools and school districts placed on
improvement status. We are especially interested in discussing how the
Department’s scarce resources might best be allocated across the state and within
5. Highly qualified teachers
NCLB requires all teachers of core academic subjects to be highly qualified by 2005-
2006. Every school and district in our state strives to have the best teachers in the
classroom. The realities of supply and demand, particularly in rural Colorado, make
that requirement challenging to meet. Several issues regarding highly qualified
Defining highly qualified teachers. Colorado’s definition of highly qualified is
acceptable. The process of allowing districts to determine highly qualified teachers
is working reasonably well because newly expanded federal regulations allow rural
schools three years to meet the requirement for highly qualified teachers. However,
these new regulations still do not match the realities of teacher recruitment and
retention in Colorado, particularly in rural parts of our state. At the end of three
years, meeting this requirement will remain a serious challenge for many Colorado
Reciprocity between states. School districts in rural Colorado, particularly those
near bordering states (i.e. Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah)
rely on recruiting teachers from other states. CDE officials have stated that they
will not accept certificates from other states unless those credentials meet the 24-
semester hour requirement. Surrounding states all responded that they will accept
certificates from other states. This restriction is hampering the efforts of Colorado’s
rural school districts to attract and maintain quality teachers.
We believe Colorado must find some way to permit our rural school districts to hire
teachers from other states, even if those teachers do not initially meet the more
strict Colorado requirements. Also, we seek to collaborate with CDE to address the
longer-term challenge of ensuring that our veteran, successful teachers have more
flexibility in demonstrating their qualifications.
6. Supplemental Services and Choice
Because NCLB was developed with urban rather than rural students in mind, some
of the requirements for providing supplemental services and choice to struggling
students are unrealistic in Colorado. Supplemental services are often not available
in rural areas. Also this option is limited to low-income children and not necessarily
available to those who most need help.
Most rural districts have only one school at each level and are unable to offer real
choice. Another issue is the requirement that all students in a school, rather than
just students in a subgroup that did not meet AYP, have the right to paid
transportation to another public school. Geographic distances make travel to schools
in other districts impractical and expensive.
We wish to collaborate with CDE and other interested parties to develop
recommendations for waivers or changes to NCLB requirements relative to
supplemental services and choice for rural districts. Targeting choice and
supplemental services to students in those subgroups that do not meet AYP
requirements should be considered.
7. Funding for NCLB
Federally mandated programs that are never fully funded have a long history. Most
educators and many other informed individuals are concerned that NCLB will be
yet another partially funded mandate. Achieving universal proficiency will require
significant resources to help struggling students.
Again we point out that Section 9527 of NCLB states that nothing in the Act
authorizes the federal government “to mandate, direct, or control a state, local
education agency or school curriculum, program of instruction or allocation of state
or local resources, or mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds
or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”
In responding to the need for more resources, Colorado officials point to additional
funds that our state has received since 2001 to implement NCLB. Keep in mind that
those dollars are targeted only to help fund Title I programs, while the law’s
requirements spill over into the entire education program. Often left out of this
equation are the additional costs that districts must absorb to meet the full
requirements of the law.
In addition, the rigid spending requirements of NCLB mean that resources in many
districts are unable to be used where they are most needed ― to help struggling
students. For example, some districts have been forced to cut much-needed staff in
order to meet funding requirements for other programs.
We bring up the issue of funding well aware of the fiscal crisis that Colorado now
finds itself in with respect to supporting education and other essential and desired
state services. Others in the state are working hard to find solutions to our current
Should the federal government not fully fund NCLB, we ask that Colorado school
districts be required to follow NCLB requirements only if they so choose to do so for
that year or subsequent unfunded years.
We also ask to collaborate with CDE in seeking greater flexibility from the U.S.
Department of Education in how federal dollars are used to accomplish the goals of
We believe in the promise of public education. It is the cornerstone of our
democracy. We recognize that change is necessary to fulfill the mission of our
schools as it has evolved. We want to provide schools that educate all students to
the highest levels of achievement.
One of the biggest barriers to achieving the results we all seek through NCLB and
our own state initiatives is the lack of capacity in our schools and districts to meet
these new expectations. Shifting an education system from one where many
students achieve to one where all students are proficient is a huge undertaking. It
takes time and adequate resources to accomplish. The people in our system need
preparation and support to make this shift successful, particularly for our lowest-
Our concern is that NCLB does not give our schools opportunities to acquire new
skills and make required changes before sanctions are imposed. Failure to allow for
this necessary capacity building to occur is sure to penalize our most vulnerable
On the other hand, if we as educators and policymakers are able to be thoughtful
and deliberate in our approach to changing our system, if we capitalize on the
quality and experience among the ranks of our professional educators, if we tap into
the knowledge and aspirations of parents and community members, then we believe
our schools can be successful. Our students deserve no less than our best efforts to
fulfill this mission.