Supt. takes issue with test that shows school lacking

FRHSD’s Wasser objects to U.S. law that labels some pupils a ‘subgroup’


Staff Writer

Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent of Schools James Wasser is pleased that five of the district’s six high schools met all 40 test score indicators as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

What he is not pleased about is the way the law classifies certain students as subgroups of an entire school population and other flaws with the law as a whole.

NCLB was signed into law by President George W. Bush on Jan. 8, 2002. The law sets testing guidelines for every student in the country.

An emphatic Wasser blasted NCLB and defended the district during the FRHSD Board of Education meeting held Sept. 11 at Howell High School.

“Our results are not just good, they are outstanding,” the superintendent said. “Five of the six schools passed all 40 [criteria]. If we go back to 2002, we had schools that had 37, 39 indicators, we’ve made progress every year. I think it is despicable to call any group of students a subgroup.”

Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Patricia Emmerman advised the board that Colts Neck High School was the only school in the district that did not meet all 40 NCLB indicators, although the school did meet 39 criteria.

Emmerman said a subgroup of students with disabilities did not pass the language arts portion of the test. She said if another 10 students had passed the test, the subgroup would have passed the indicator and given the school a perfect score.

She, too, praised the district and denounced NCLB.

“I have to tell you, I’m very concerned,” Emmerman said. “In fact, as many of you realize, [students with disabilities] are not expected to pass a test for every student in New Jersey. It’s remarkable they have done as well as they have. I think the results are outstanding.”

Wasser resumed his comments on NCLB, saying he is amazed by the fact that students who speak limited English, African-Americans and students with learning disabilities are referred to as subgroups.

“I would like to know if our [government representatives] would like to be called subrepresentative or subpresident,” he said. “I really believe NCLB is attached to destroying public education in this country. Kids are not going to be called successful if they’re called a subgroup.”

Pun or not, Wasser said, “I think it’s time to shake up the bush,” and tell the federal government how the school district feels about NCLB, especially since the law will be up for reauthorization in 2007.

“I have told the staff it appears NCLB won’t make any changes, so unfortunately we’re going to have to make some noise,” the superintendent said. “You get one chance to change this before they reauthorize it.”

Wasser called for a letter-writing campaign “to attack the flaws” of NCLB. He asked residents to contact the FRHSD if they feel similarly.

“We need people to write their own letters,” the superintendent said. “If you can or are interested – form letters don’t work – we’re going to do individual letters.”

Wasser commended the district’s principals and said the law judges them unfairly as well, since a principal can be removed from a school without the district’s consent if the school does not pass all 40 indicators for a period of several years.

In those situations, he said, the state “shuffles the deck,” but “any time the state takes over, they do a lousy job.”

“It’s frustrating because no one is listening,” Wasser said, before once again asking residents to contact the district and write letters to their elected federal repre