Exactly who is left behind, anyway?

We recently ran an Associated Press series of stories on No Child Left Behind, stories that implied a "loophole" in legislation had been found that allowed for marginalization of minority students as a result.

Before test scores in a subgroup can count, the subgroup must consist of a minimum number of students - 25 in Nevada. The rationale behind the AP complaint is that when those student numbers fall below 25, the subgroup is not counted and thus marginalized.

But there's a reason that Nevada requires a minimum of at least 25 students in each subgroup and that is to prevent just one student from impacting the entire school's NCLB designation. Consider what would happen if just one child were required per subgroup.

Say, for example, it's an Asian student and that, although the school performs exemplary elsewhere, this Asian students fails his or her tests. The school is marked in need of improvement in the Asian subgroup, and because it takes just one category for the school to be designated in need of improvement, the entire school is designated in need of improvement.

Kinda crazy, huh?

The minimum-number requirement is actually a way to keep one student from bringing a certain designation on the entire school.

Nevada actually leans in favor of the individual when compared with other states, some of which require 50 students be in each subgroup before the subgroup test scores can be counted

The complaints I have heard about the federal legislation is not that it fails to account for students in subgroups, but, on the contrary, that it takes them into account too much.

Imagine a large high school with enough students for each of the eight subgroups - which are American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, African-American, white, special education, free-and-reduced lunch and limited-English proficiency.

Compare the difference between a Hispanic student whose test scores would count in the total and Hispanic categories and a free-and-reduced, special-education, limited-English proficiency, black student, whose scores would count in five categories, including the total category.

Because students are marked in both English-language arts proficiency and math proficiency, the black student's scores will count at least 10 different ways when his school is assessed under No Child Left Behind.

The legislation allows for test scores of students who fall into multiple subgroups to be counted multiple times - 180 degrees from the AP claim that some students in subgroups aren't counted at all.

But the AP stories also attempt to write about marginalization of the ethnic subgroups, and in failing to mention the other subgroups counted the same exact way, they've left behind students in the white, free-and-reduced lunch, limited-English proficiency and special-education subgroups.

When you see that all of the subgroups - ethnic and non-ethnic alike - are counted the same way, you realize the 25-minimum students requirement has little to do with marginalization and a lot more to do with a balancing act.

• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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