Guest Opinion: Schools strives to accommodate federal legislation |

Guest Opinion: Schools strives to accommodate federal legislation

by Lisa Fontana

The federal legislation known as No Child Left Behind was signed into law on Jan. 8, 2002. According to Secretary of Education Rod Page, the goal of the act is to foster a school environment in which every child can learn and succeed. One of the important changes for schools because of the law is the requirement that all teachers be highly qualified to teach the subjects they are teaching.

Other important requirements are that all students demonstrate proficiency in English/language arts and math by 2014 and that schools use scientifically research-based programs and practices to ensure students reach that goal.

In the Douglas County School District, we are involved in many tasks that are helping us to meet the requirements of the law. Two of our current projects are the training of our elementary teachers on research-based effective teaching strategies for reading and the selection of a scientifically research-based mathematics program for elementary students. Both of these processes follow stringent requirements of the law.

The elementary teachers in our district are involved in a multiyear training program whereby they become skilled at effective teaching practices to help their students better learn to read and write. The professional development that teachers receive follows the findings of scientific research about the kind of training that is proven to most impact teacher effectiveness and student learning. Teachers are involved in long-term training, collaboration with other teachers, follow-up work with classroom coaches and review of student assessment data that they then use to guide their instructional decisions.

During the first few years of implementation, many hours of the teachers’ teaching and planning time are directed toward these training activities. Once the teachers have completed their initial training, their schools move into a maintenance stage where teachers spend much less time out of the classroom for training.

A team of teachers and administrators is also studying current research to help them as they select a math program for elementary students. Because of the rigorous requirements that materials and practices be research-based, textbook publishers have been improving their offerings. Many of the popular publishers now consult with the leading researchers in their fields for guidance in developing their new programs.

The math program selection process will take most of the year to complete because there are state materials adoption criteria to follow to ensure the selection of the highest quality programs. The math adoption team will meet after school several times and then take a full day or two to examine the samples prior to a final recommendation. Parents and the local school board are then asked to look at the materials and share their perceptions. If the Nevada Board of Education has not yet approved the program, there is an additional approval process to complete at the state level. Once approved, the materials are ordered and shipped prior to the next school year.

There are many other projects in which the schools and district office are involved as a result of the No Child Left Behind legislation. This was just a peek into a few of them.

– Lisa Fontana is the director of curriculum and instruction for Douglas County School District and may be reached at This column first appeared in the Tahoe Daily Tribune on Dec. 12.