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Americans grow skeptical as school reform takes toll

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He adds that the good news for federal officials is that the public broadly supports the objectives of the new law - and that there is still time to fix it.

Some 90 percent of those polled say that it is important to close the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white classmates, and 58 percent agree that that responsibility belongs to the public schools.

But there is broad concern that the performance-based measures in NCLB can't measure how well a school is doing, he adds.

At the heart of the new law is a key assumption: What can be measured can be fixed.

States are required to set standards for reading and mathematics and test whether students are making adequate yearly progress toward meeting them.

If they're not, penalties kick in under the law, including a shift of federal funding from the school to parents. The parents can use the money to buy tutoring or other services for their children or to transfer to a better performing public school.

A key to the success of the law is how the public interprets failure to meet NCLB standards for adequate yearly progress - a growing problem nationwide.

Pointing the finger

Asked who is to blame if large numbers of public schools fail NCLB requirements, the public is split: 45 percent say the public schools are more to blame; 43 percent say they would blame the law.

But among those claiming to know a "great deal" about NCLB, 61 percent say the law is more to blame for poor results than the public schools.

Most public school parents still say they know little or nothing about the law.

"If they do not change that law, it's not if every urban school in Indiana will fail, it's when they'll fail," says Dr. Rose, who is also a consultant to the Indiana Urban Schools Association.

In Indiana, special education accounts totally or in part for more than three quarters of the failures of schools to meet new federal standards, he says.

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