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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 31, 2003

Deciphering new ABC's of education

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Staff Writer

When the National Education Association, one of the country's largest teacher unions, took on President Bush's education law recently, I had to shudder at the acronyms.

The NEA will sue the U.S. DOE over NCLB.


Public education, a landscape fraught with jargon and an alphabet soup of acronyms, is getting even harder for people to understand.

So for those of you who aren't employees of the Department of Education, here's my simplified guide to what's what and who's who in the new world of education and testing:

• No Child Left Behind: This is the federal education law, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The president signed the law in early 2002 and called it "No Child Left Behind" to try to make a point and jazz up the name "Elementary and Secondary Education Act." The law requires steady and continual improvement of standardized test scores until all students have reached "proficiency" by 2014. Sometimes educators shorten NCLB to "nickel-be" when spoken aloud.

• Adequate Yearly Progress: AYP is what schools must make to be in compliance with NCLB. AYP means that scores on standardized tests need to hit a certain level every year. Schools have to test at least 95 percent of students and have a good graduation rate to meet AYP.

• Subgroups: This is where the phrase "No Child Left Behind" comes into play. Under the new law, states must show how students at each school score across ethnic groups (using census categories of white, black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islander), and how students who are high-poverty, special education or of limited English proficiency are scoring against the general population.

This prevents the higher-average scores of a whole class from shielding the poor performance of any of the subgroups.

• HCPS: A locally written standardized test called Hawai'i Content and Performance Standards. If you're an education pro, you call it "hiccups."

This test is given each spring to kids in grades three, five, eight and 10 and has proven a challenge for most students. But compliance with NCLB is based on how well students do on this test.

All schools should have at least 30 percent of their students scoring proficient on the reading portion of the test and 10 percent scoring proficient on math. By the 2013-2014 school year, all students should be scoring proficient.

• SAT: The Stanford Achievement Test, a national barometer of achievement, is given to Hawai'i students each spring.

• National Education Association: The union that represents 2.7 million teachers has announced plans to sue the federal government for not providing enough money to the states to pay the cost of No Child Left Behind. NEA officials hope to use a provision in the law that says the government cannot require states or school districts to spend their money on compliance. This appears to be the first legal and political challenge for the law.

The Hawai'i State Teachers Association, with about 13,000 members, is affiliated with NEA.

If you want to show off, use this sentence in front of your child's teacher when you drop him or her off for school. "Under nickel-be, our school didn't make AYP because of one of the subgroup's scores on the hiccups test."

If you can say it 10 times in a row really fast, you should run for the school board.