Posts tagged with "NCLB"

No Child Left Behind – Connecticut

What is NCLB?

One of the legislative centerpieces of Federal Education Law is “The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (“NCLB”).  The Act is 670 pages in length and almost as controversial as it is long.   Therefore, parents should be familiar with at least its stated purpose and general provisions.  NCLB does not, however, give parents the right to sue on behalf of their children. 

NCLB funds Federal programs established by the U.S. Department of Education aimed at improving the performance of schools throughout the 50 states by imposing greater accountability on public schools, expanding parental choice in the school attended by their child, and placing increased emphasis on reading and math skills.  NCLB has as one of its focal points the improvement of schools and school districts serving students from low-income families.

The theory underlying enactment of NCLB was that improved educational programs would enable students to meet challenging state academic achievement standards and thereby achieve their full potential.  Among other areas, the Act funds programs and resources for disadvantaged students, delinquent and neglected youth in institutions, improving teacher and principal quality, use of technology in schools, and fostering a safe and drug-free learning environment.  One source of controversy is the fact that NCLB allows military recruiters access to the names, addresses, and telephone listings of 11th and 12th grade students if the school provides that information to colleges or employers. 

Stronger Test Standards

More specifically, NCLB requires states to strengthen test standards, to test annually all students in grades 3-8, and to establish annual statewide progress objectives to ensure that all students achieve proficiency within 12 years. There are no Federal standards of achievement; each state is required to set its own standards. Test results and state progress objectives must be stratified based upon poverty, race, ethnicity, disability, and English proficiency to ensure that “no child is left behind.”  Schools and school districts that fail to make “adequate yearly progress” are subject to corrective action and restructuring.  Adequate yearly progress means, for example, that each year a school’s fourth graders score higher on standardized tests than the previous year’s fourth graders.

What if a school underperforms?

Once a school has been identified under NCLB as requiring improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, local school officials must afford its students the opportunity (and transportation, if needed) to attend a better public school within the same school district.  Low-income students attending a “persistently failing school” (i.e., one failing to meet state standards for 3 out of the 4 preceding years) are eligible for funding to obtain supplemental educational services from either public or private schools selected by the student and his parents. 

Under-performing schools are highly incentivized to improve if they wish to avoid further loss of students (and an accompanying loss of funding).  A school that fails to make adequate yearly progress for five consecutive years is subject to reconstitution under a restructuring plan.

Simply stated, NCLB provides states and school districts unprecedented flexibility in their use of federal funds in return for more stringent accountability for increased teacher quality and improved student results.

Improving Reading Ability and Instruction

One of the stated goals of NCLB is that every child be able to read by the end of third grade.  To this end, the Federal government invested in scientifically based reading instruction programs to be implemented in the early grades.  An expected collateral benefit of this initiative is reduced identification of children requiring special education services resulting from a lack of appropriate reading instruction. 

NCLB funds screening and diagnostic assessments to identify K-3 students who are at risk of reading failure, and to better equip K-3 teachers in the essential components of reading instruction.  Funds are also available to support early language, literacy, and pre-reading development of pre-school age children.

In keeping with its major themes of accountability, choice, and flexibility, NCLB also emphasizes the use of practices grounded in scientifically based research to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers.  Once again, local school administrators are afforded significant flexibility in teacher staffing, provided they can demonstrate annual progress in maintaining and enhancing the high-quality of their teachers.

Ensuring Safe School Environments

Finally, in an effort to ensure safe and drug-free schools, NCLB, as proposed, requires states to allow students who attend a persistently dangerous school, or who have been victims of violent crime at school, to transfer to a safe school.  To facilitate characterizing schools as “safe” or “not safe,” NCLB requires public disclosure of school safety statistics on a school-by-school basis.  In addition, school administrators must use federal funding to implement demonstrably effective drug and violence prevention programs.

It is within this overarching educational framework of NCLB that the State of Connecticut oversees and administers its constitutional and statutory obligations to educate your children.

Placement in Appropriate Education Programs

Special education students are entitled to a free appropriate public education (otherwise known as “FAPE”), that must be tailored to the individual student. However, schools are not required to provide optimum programming – just “appropriate” programming. One federal judge has likened the difference between optimum and appropriate programming to that between a “Cadillac” and a “serviceable Chevrolet.” See Doe v. Bd. of Ed. of Tullahoma City Schools, 9 F.3d 455, 459-60 (6th Cir. 1993). However, if a particular service is required for the student’s special education needs, as evaluated, then the service must be provided without regard to how much it costs.

Sometimes, public schools simply do not offer the services that your child’s special education needs require. At this point, it may be possible to place your child in an appropriate private school and seek reimbursement from your school district for the associated costs. In order to do this, you must request a due process hearing and prove to an impartial hearing officer that not only does the private school meet your child’s educational needs, but that the school district failed to provide your child with a FAPE in a timely manner. Furthermore, you must comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements or your reimbursement award may be denied or reduced.

Significantly, one misstep in this process can mean losing your right to reimbursement – there are time limitations and notice requirements to comply with, and it is important to know all the details before a parent unilaterally places a child privately. Our experienced attorneys will make themselves available to guide and assist you in making a quick and efficient determination of the most effective plan of action for your family, while protecting your rights under applicable regulations.

Special Education Law: Evaluation and Identification

Children identified as having disabilities have different rights from other students. Accordingly, the identification process is a very important step. It begins with a referral sent to the student’s school district – specifically, a written request for an evaluation of whether the child is eligible for, and needs, special education services. This request can be made by the child’s parent, school personnel, or another appropriate person (such as a physician or a social worker).

Once the school district receives a referral, it must convene a planning and placement team (“PPT”) to review the referral, determine whether further evaluation is necessary and, ultimately, decide whether the child requires special education services. If the PPT requests further evaluation of your child, such evaluation will be conducted at the school district’s expense.

Once the PPT has made its determination, you have the right to request an independent educational evaluation (“IEE”) of your child if you disagree with the PPT’s decision. If, after the IEE, you still disagree with the PPT, you may request a hearing in accordance with State Department of Education regulations. Our attorneys will work with your family to determine the best course of action and to protect your child’s educational rights, while ensuring compliance with applicable federal, state and local regulations.

The Limited Circumstances Permitting Right to Transfer Under No Child Left Behind

Since it was passed into law in January 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been the subject of ongoing debate regarding its focus on test scores and increased teacher and administration accountability. However, one aspect of this legislation that has not received as much attention in the spotlight concerns school assignment decisions and the role of NCLB in the right to transfer.

Under Connecticut law, local boards of education are left with the task of determining which school district, if there is more than one in the town, a student is required to attend.[1] In some situations, your local school board may reach out to a neighboring town and agree to send its students to the latter (typically for matters of geographical convenience). Furthermore, school boards may “develop intradistrict student assignment programs [whereby] parents may select the public school which their child will attend provided the school is in the school district in which the child resides.”[2]

When such a program is not implemented and the school board assigns your child to a particular district, you as a parent are without the right to appeal. However, NCLB has chiseled three narrow situations by which the assignment is overruled.

Situation #1: The school is “in need of improvement” under NCLB.

Under NCLB § 1111, if your child attends a school that is designated as “in need of improvement,” he or she may seek transfer to a different school (if any) in the district.

Situation #2: Your child is the victim of a violent crime on school grounds.

Under NCLB § 9532, if your child is becomes the victim of a violent crime while on school grounds, he or she must be allowed the opportunity to seek transfer to a different school (if any) in the district. As further detailed by the State Board of Education, this requires:

  1. Bodily injury to the child, caused by an intentional, negligent, or reckless act by someone else.
  2. Police must be notified and write up a report.
  3. The police report must contain facts sufficient to show that the alleged acts constituted a crime.
Situation #3: The school is “persistently dangerous.”

Also under NCLB § 9532, if a state receives Title I funds, it must identify all schools that are “persistently dangerous” and afford the opportunity to children attending these schools to transfer into ones that are safer within the same district (if any). In its Circular Letter C-34, the State Department of Education explained that “the identification of an unsafe school concentrates upon two types of serious offenses: weapons violations and violent acts,” which fall into three categories:

  1. Student expulsion for possession of firearms or explosives on school property. Two or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion.
  2. Student expulsion for possession of other weapons (such as knives) or implements capable of causing injury. Three or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion (at a rate of one per 200 students).
  3. Student expulsion for a violent criminal offense. Three or more incidents of this nature satisfy this criterion (at a rate of one per 200 students).

If two of the three criterion are present for three consecutive years, “the school will be identified as persistently dangerous, all students must be offered the option of transferring to a school that has not been identified as persistently dangerous within the district.”[3] However, as a parent, it is important to realize that your child’s right to transfer is moot if there is only one school at a particular level in your district, regardless of whether or not he or she qualifies for transfer under any of the three NCLB scenarios.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding school assignment, right to transfer, or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-220(a).

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-221e.

[3] Series 2002-03, Circular Letter: C-34 (June 23, 2003).

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