Parents, educators turn out in record numbers on No Child Left Behind

More than 70 people attended Wednesday night's meeting.

More than 70 Horry County area parents and teachers attended a meeting held by the State Education Department Wednesday night. South Carolina Department of Education members are going around the state to show what's on their proposed waiver to opt out of federal requirement standards from No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

The meeting was held at Conway High School, organizers say it was the largest of any meetings they have held in the state.

"We need your input on this," Dr. Nancy Busbee told the crowd.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, also known as "NCLB" is a US federal law proposed by President George W. Bush. The legislation funds a number of federal programs that aim at improving the performance of U.S. schools by increasing the standards of accountability for states, school districts and schools. It also aims to gives parents more flexibility in choosing which schools their children will attend if a school is labeled failing. It also promotes an increased focus on reading and math.

The problem, some say, is that schools's success under NCLB is measured by something called Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). It's done in an all or nothing system. Schools that might be doing well on almost all their objectives, but not perfect, are considered failing.

"In South Carolina, we have over 300 title one schools not making AYP. And we have just over $500,000 dollars to help them. And that just doesn't add up." Busbee said.

Another criticism is the decisions being made are based on mainly standardized, multiple choice testing. Creating pressure for educators to "teach to the test" and be less creative.

Dr. Busbee Says from 2001 until now schools were required to go from being 30 percent proficient in scores to 90 percent.

"This year we made 20 of the 21 objectives we were tested on with NCLB," St. James Elementary school Principal Mary Beth Heath told Newschannel 15.

Ten members from the St. James Elementary School Improvement Council were among those in the crowd. This was the first time everyone in the room was hearing first hand from the state what the proposed changes are.

"I haven't heard anything honestly going into this. I am interested because of how restrictive NCLB seems to be, but I am also worried because anytime you give flexibility there are ways to work around that," parent Nicole Beyersdorf said.

Some of the proposed changes under the states plan include ranking schools into the lowest 5 percent and 10 percent of performers. Those schools would be the most eligible for the state's school improvement money, otherwise known as the 1003 (a) fund.

Right now, under NCLB, any under performing school is eligible for that money. Also, under NCLB, title one schools that are not meeting the AYP performance goals have to offer school choice. They also have to offer after school tutoring by private providers.

Dr. Busbee said the waiver would change that.

"This allows us to really identify the lowest performing schools," she said.

Another change under the state, would be acknowledgement of partial credit. So even if a school isn't perfect, they might not receive a failing rank.

"When NCLB was passed in 2001, it was not the intent to label failing schools but rather lable those whose didn't make adequate yearly process as defined by NCLB. Now that has become an all or nothing process," she added.

There are certain things this possible state waiver won't cover. For example, they still have federal requirements to meet for special education students.

You can read the purposed waiver in its entirety here.

In addition to the meetings, the state is collecting online comments. They will keep their online comment section open until January 23rd. They then plan to hold a meeting with the General Assembly and Governor Nikki Haley in February on the feedback they receive online.

The deadline for South Carolina's waiver is February 21, 2012.

"This is still in the fairly early stages," Busbee said.