The superintendent of Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 had the opportunity this week to add his voice to the national debate over the No Child Left Behind Act, serving on a panel for a congressional hearing organized by local congressman.

Thomas Hurlburt explained that U.S. Congressmen Danny Davis (D-7th) and Daniel Lipinski (D-3rd) organized the hearing, held Monday morning at Lyons Township High School to gather feedback about the Bush administration’s education initiative from local educators. No Child Left Behind, which significantly changes assessment procedures for public schools, is up for reauthorization by Congress this year.

For his part, Hurlburt said he approved of the goals of the law, but saw difficulties in implementing the reforms needed to achieve them. Part of the problem is the limited funding. Hurlburt noted that No Child Left Behind is currently $30 billion underfunded by the national government. He acknowledged, however, that the required reforms are also inherently complicated, and it will take time to make them effective.

“The overall premise-data-driven decision-making, curriculum aligned to standards, greater accountability for student achievement-is all very good,” Hurlburt said. “The challenge comes in implementation, the burden it puts on districts to provide staff and allow time for staff development. … You’ve got to pay for it somewhere, but I don’t want to hide behind the excuse that we’re not funded.”

That view was shared by most District 95 school board members, who discussed the hearing at their Sept. 27 meeting. No Child Left Behind’s limited funding was seen as an issue, but ultimately many board members argued the law’s standards should be attainable by the district. “Having these performance standards is not a bad thing,” said board member Thomas Powers. “At the moment, these are minimum standards we should be able to meet.”

The district’s two schools met NCLB achievement standards in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Test scores for 2007 should be available by the end of October. The last time, a District 95 did not make adequate yearly progress according to NCLB guidelines was in 2003.

Hurlburt said he was encouraged by proposed changes to the No Child Left Behind Act introduced by Lipinski and Davis. Although funding is expected to increase minimally, by $4.2 billion, Hurlburt said legislators were considering changing the way test scores are assessed, judging a student’s performance over many years instead of looking at a single score.

“It would give you a more accurate idea of performance,” Hurlburt explained. “You would compare a student’s score in eighth grade to their performance in fifth grade, and if you see a growth of 10 or 15 percent, that counts as a success.”

Overall, Hurlburt said he was hopeful the congressmen’s efforts would result in changes to No Child Left Behind that would make the law more manageable for school districts.

“The consensus is that the premise, the accountability it requires, is good,” he said. “Now let’s figure out how to fix it.”