Home >> A Issues >> Nclbwork >> Coping With More Mandates, Less Money

Search form

Coping With More Mandates, Less Money

Students in the Orleans (Vermont) Central Supervisory Union are doing well and teachers are getting help to be highly qualified, but district officials wonder how they will manage with the increasing costs of NCLB. Included: One district's approach to yearly progress, professional development.

Despite the challenges facing rural districts, Orleans (Vermont) Central Supervisory Union has been holding its own in the areas of highly qualified teachers and student achievement, but officials have concerns about both areas.

The Orleans superintendent must continually recruit for teachers -- not only because it is difficult to find teachers, but also because the district has difficulty keeping the teachers it does recruit. The isolation and long distances from urban areas can quickly change a new teacher's attitude from one of delight in country living to one of boredom and longing for city life (and a higher urban paycheck). There are no easy answers to this dilemma, which seems to be prevalent in remote regions that lack basic economic development resources.

At the same time, district officials had plans to assist the 28 teachers in the district who do not meet the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requirements of highly qualified teachers. These teachers all have college degrees but are on waiver certification because of their assignment to classes such as special education. The Praxis test is being used to address their licensing needs, and the district has established a formal relationship with the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative for Professional Development based at Lyndon State College.

A sizable amount of money has been set aside from Title I to provide adequate professional development for teachers in several areas. Literacy and reading in all content areas is one focus, and others are writing conventions, math, and science. New teachers work with collaborative teachers who are assigned to help them with direct instruction at various grade levels.

Paraprofessionals are included in the staff development. They are encouraged to submit portfolios for assessment or take the state-recognized test if they do not have two years of college. Many are native to the area, and they provide a necessary link to the community.


Students in the Orleans Supervisory Union schools have done well on state testing, but district officials have concerns about the appropriateness of testing students with disabilities using grade-level tests. Autistic students, for example, are educated in regular classrooms where possible, but have special needs very different from those of the other students in the room. Yet as district officials understand NCLB requirements, the achievement of autistic students cannot be assessed with alternative assessments, and this is a concern to Orleans staff.

Orleans union staff members also are concerned about the achievement of the large number of students at risk, and with a decline in state and local funds due to the decrease in overall student enrollment, options to help these students are limited. Higher student teacher ratios are anticipated, according to district staff, and there are concerns that the enrollment decline will continue because the population of the region is changing and there are fewer families with children.


As a supervisory union made up of seven small schools, Orleans officials are particularly sensitive to the burden of additional federal requirements without the funding that is needed to implement NCLB. Local dollars already are being stretched just to meet daily needs, and the NCLB requirements come at a time when the supervisory union faces declining revenues from state and local sources. This leaves the small schools in the union with a fiscal dilemma; they have many needs but no extra money to fix their problems.

Additional teacher training, for example, might be needed or new curricula and student tutoring, but there is no flexibility in a bare bones budget to move in those directions. Unfunded mandates, which NCLB could become, put more cost burden on the local communities that cannot raise additional funding, even for the laudable goal of raising student performance and teacher qualifications.

Although some districts in Vermont have indicated that they will decline federal funding from NCLB because of their dislike for the requirements that are part of the federal law, the Orleans Supervisory Union has not chosen that option.

SOURCE: Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see A Look Inside 33 School Districts: Year 2 of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Share Your NCLB Strategies

Education World's Working With NCLB feature highlights schools or districts with stories to share about how they are implementing requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. If you have a Working With NCLB story to share, send an e-mail toEllen Delisio.