A Close Look at No Child Left Behind At Schools 2004, Clinicians and Federal Officials Probe Impact of the Law School Matters
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School Matters  |   September 01, 2004
A Close Look at No Child Left Behind
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   September 01, 2004
A Close Look at No Child Left Behind
The ASHA Leader, September 2004, Vol. 9, 1-29. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM2.09172004.1
The ASHA Leader, September 2004, Vol. 9, 1-29. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM2.09172004.1
Not far from the nation’s capital where the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law was enacted, nearly 740 participants gathered at ASHA’s 2004 Schools Conference at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to take a close look at a law that has left no school district or state unchanged.
Through presentations and informal conversations during a special reception, participants received the latest information about the evolving regulations from key staff from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Speech-language pathologists who are members of ASHA’s NCLB advisory group provided the participants with strategies for school-based practice.
During the July 9–11 conference, congressional staff members were also on hand to provide an insider’s update on the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and NCLB. A record number of participants demonstrated that “write is might” during a two-day letter-writing campaign to Congress on IDEA. A total of 833 letters were sent urging representatives to maintain the “highest qualified provider” provisions in the upcoming conference on the IDEA bill, relating their personal experiences. These letters were hand-delivered by ASHA staff to senators and representatives from 41 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam.
Susan Rigney, education specialist for standards, assessment, and accountability at the U.S. Department of Education and consultant to ASHA’s NCLB advisory group, kicked off the conference by highlighting key points that SLPs should know about accountability within NCLB. Schools are required to be accountable for all students and must provide disaggregated data on student performance. These data are used to calculate whether a district is making adequate yearly progress (AYP) and requires progress over time.
In response to NCLB, states are now re-examining assessment practices to develop assessments that do not introduce barriers, Rigney said. “We are seeing more interest in how we can accurately assess skills in children with limited English proficiency, and we are looking for ways to provide meaningful accommodations for students with disabilities.”
Many opportunities exist for SLPs, Rigney reminded participants. “You know a lot about teaching reading and English language learners. You are valuable resources to your schools and districts, and I urge you to be involved and use your skills.”
Tackling Key Topics
Breakout sessions delved into the nuts and bolts of five key elements of NCLB: adequate yearly progress and assessment, supplemental services, English language learners, alternate assessments and alternate standards, and differentiated instruction. Sessions paired the perspectives of an ED representative with a school-based SLP, giving participants the opportunity to ask questions.
A session on alternate assessments and alternate standards highlighted options for students with disabilities who can take the regular test with or without accommodations specified in state guidelines, or take an alternate assessment aligned with the general curriculum standards.
“A child with autism may not be able to take a paper-and-pencil test, but may be able to take a test at grade-level standards,” said Kerri Briggs, special assistant to the assistant secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the ED.
An option for students to meet state guidelines is taking an alternate assessment using alternate standards. While there is no cap on the number of students who take these assessments, there is a 1% cap on the number of proficient and advanced scores that may be included in AYP calculations. Districts and states that exceed the cap may apply for an exemption.
“Never before has there been a state-level assessment in place for the most significant cognitive disabilities,” commented Lissa Power-deFur, former director of student services at the Virginia Department of Education and now chair of the department of education, special education, and social work at Longwood University.
But assessing these students poses a continuing challenge for states. “How do we assess children who are medically fragile against the general curriculum standard?” Power-deFur asked.
Her question reflected the sentiments of many conference participants who felt that NCLB posed a conundrum for states and SLPs.
“Students are expected to do reading and math on grade level, but they don’t have the skills to do so. Children with significant problems will never be on grade level, but it’s a miracle they’re alive and with us,” said Patricia Patterson of Stoneville, NC.
In Georgia, “the biggest concern with NCLB is with AYP and off-level testing. Off-level testing has basically been taken away for students with disabilities because students must take the grade-level test,” said Charlette Green, an SLP with the state Department of Education. “The biggest issue is that now we’re assessing how we’re teaching. The onus is on us to teach the child-this is different from standardized testing.”
A session on “Differentiated Instruction” drew a standing-room-only crowd as presenter Michael Castleberry, professor of special education at The George Washington University, explained that SLPs’ knowledge of speech and language is a critical component in putting differentiated instruction into practice.
“We need to know the clinical diagnostic information to help the child instructionally,” Castleberry said. “Differentiated instruction cannot work unless our knowledge about the learner is manifest in our practice.”
To implement differentiated instruction, educators must design multi-level instruction to adapt the curriculum to individual functioning levels within cooperative, mixed-ability learning groups, said presenter Monica Ferguson, projects coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education State Improvement Grant. “While developing instruction for your highest functioning students, keep in mind the needs of your average and lower-ability students,” Ferguson said.
In “Teaching to the Test,” presenter Lissa Power-deFur delved into the assessment requirements of NCLB and explored ways that SLPs can use their state’s assessmentblueprint to align speech-language service delivery with grade-level standards of learning. SLPs can examine blueprints to identify standards covered by the test, the weight given to particular standards, and information on test construction to match the time and emphasis given to each standard. Power-deFur also reviewed accommodations most commonly allowed by states on standardized testing as well as other non-standard accommodations.
NCLB and IDEA
A rousing round of applause followed a tribute to SLPs by keynote speaker Troy Justesen, deputy commissioner of the ED’s Rehabilitation Services Administration.
“You are among the most important people in America because you are helping people with disabilities participate in society as they grow up,” Justesen said. “You are vital for the educational achievement of 8 million students in this country.”
Justesen outlined the similarities and differences between two major laws-IDEA and NCLB-highlighting the ED initiatives to support both laws. Federal support for IDEA calls for a 10% increase in Reading First to $1.5 billion, and a $132 million increase in Early Reading First in the budget proposed by President Bush, Justesen noted.
“Under IDEA, the president has invested more money in special education than any other president in the history of this nation,” he said.
Compendium of Clinical Topics
When not delving into the comprehensive NCLB law, participants also gained information from sessions on a wide range of clinical topics that SLPs could take back to their schools and infuse into their practice. In “Words, Words, Words: Vocabulary Building and Literacy Development,” Judy Montgomery, professor of special education and literacy at Chapman University, outlined explicit instruction strategies to develop the listening, speaking, reading, and writing vocabulary students need to meet grade-level essential standards for vocabulary.
Participants gained an update on enhancing children’s phonological and metaphonological skills during a popular session by Barbara Hodson, professor at Wichita State University. After outlining an approach based on cycles of phonological acquisition, she suggested target patterns and words that could be incorporated into a treatment session and strategies to promote literacy development.
Emily Rubin, lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine and director of Communication Crossroads, addressed a topic of concern to a growing number of SLPs in “Fostering Social Communicative Competence in Students with High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.” During the session, she outlined the core social communication challenges for High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, while contrasting the differences in learning style, early language development, and conversational style that include differences in preferred topics and prosody for individuals with these disorders. Rubin proposed the SCERTS model to address Social-Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Support, providing sample goals and objectives for educational programming.
Look for articles on other clinical and professional topics presented at the Schools 2004 conference in this issue, including stress management, bullying, and due process.
Clear Blue Skies
In their free time, participants enjoyed three warm sunny days at Baltimore’s revitalized Inner Harbor as they shopped, visited the Baltimore Aquarium and Science Museum, watched the Orioles play baseball, and learned the art ofeating steamed, spiced crabs. In the evening, they sailed off on a cruise aboard the Prince Charming to benefit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.
On the final day, 41 poster sessions highlighted clinical research and resources for school-based professionals on topics including minimal hearing loss in the school, identification and management of auditory processing disorders, procedures for language sample analysis, high school SLPs, and the genetics of hearing loss.
In a poster on a Multiple Intelligences Literacy Lab at the Suffield Middle School in CT, Nancy Lampros said she developed the approach as part of a grant for inclusion approaches from the state Department of Education. “The kids enjoy it-they recruit others. They know it’s not just for kids who have an IEP-it’s a place to work collaboratively.”
Serendipitous Discoveries
Preparing to send conference participants on their own back-to-school journeys, Judy Montgomery read the fairy tale journey of the three princes of Serendip. The educated princes, through reading and observing, “were always making discoveries-by accidents and sagacity-of things they were not in search of.” The tale led Horace Walpole to coin the word “serendipity” in 1754.
This single word-serendipity-became the subject of several classic books and a concept that is now recognized as the foundation of scientific advances today.
In communication sciences and disorders, the discovery that children with dyslexia could not name colors quickly led to the Rapid Automatic Naming test. The realization that the ear produces and amplifies its own sounds led to the unexpected discovery of otoacoustic emissions.
Each of these is the product of intended research-with unanticipated data and unintended discoveries. “When you find these situations and they contradict heory, you must keep and study the fact and abandon the theory behind it,” Montgomery said. “It’s a journey that’s going to take you in a ifferent direction.”
But luck has nothing to do it. Instead, serendipity happens to skilled and knowledgeable observers. This fall, Montgomery challenged participants to follow in the steps of the three princes,noting that these “happy accidents” happen to these with the educational preparation, the cleverness, and the willingness to roam beyond narrow questions.
As the conference ended, participants left with new knowledge, new acquaintances and bags full of information from exhibit booths.
Schools 2004 was sponsored by PsychCorp, EBS Healthcare, Super Duper Publications, AGS Publishing, Progressus Therapy, Inc., and Subaru. Sponsors also included ASHA Special Interest Division 1, Language, Learning, and Education; Division 3, Voice and Voice Disorders; Division 14, Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations; and Division 16, School-Based Issues.
Watch The ASHA Leader and www.asha.org for details on Schools 2005 which will be held July 8–10 in Indianapolis, IN.
ASHA Resources
  • ASHA Schools 2004 Session Anthology. A compendium of conference related material including the agenda, speaker handouts, and a description of poster sessions from the conference. Contact ASHA’s Product Sales at 888-498-6699 or browse the online products catalog.

  • ASHA’s No Child Left Behind Web site. Fact sheets on accountability, highly qualified providers and assessment.

  • Literacy Gateway. Special Web page with facts on literacy, information on the SLP’s role, grant opportunities, and helpful links.

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September 2004
Volume 9, Issue 17