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[Susan notes: When is it a letter and when is it a stump speech?]

Published in Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star

To the editor

Yes, Virginia, there is a reason to stay with 'No Child'

There seems to be a major misunderstanding in your editorial on No Child Left Behind ["Let 'No Child' go," March 24].

I applaud Virginia's efforts in implementing school accountability: The state was one of the first to address the issue, and Virginians have much for which to be proud. But like every other state in the nation, Virginia can do better.

NCLB does not supplant the Virginia Standards of Learning, it supports them. The Virginia accountability plan for No Child Left Behind, which sets out the goals and parameters for Virginia's students, was crafted by the Virginia Department of Education.

Thus, the standards for accountability, testing, and teacher quality are set by the state, not by the federal government. Virginia can test whatever it wants under No Child Left Behind. The law respects and strengthens state responsibility for education, which is why the content of testing and other issues is left to the states.

The law itself is a federal law, but it is nothing more than a framework. It is an outgrowth and restructuring of earlier versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which first became law in 1965.

Elementary and secondary education remains the traditional province of state and local governments. But the days of free money are over--if Virginia takes the federal funds, then it must obey the law. We are asking only that the state do its job, and do it on its own terms.

The No Child Left Behind Act will make our schools more successful, inclusive, and fair. NCLB improves the quality of teaching, introduces greater fiscal accountability, and gives parents more choices.

We will continue to work with the state Department of Education as a partner to make sure that all of Virginia's schoolchildren get the quality education they deserve.

Rod Paige, U. S. Secretary of Education

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