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Lawmakers Resume Efforts to Abandon Education Law

ST. PAUL - Minnesota lawmakers resumed their fight against the federal education law requiring a raft of high-stakes testing, and they expressed displeasure with President Bush's new goal of expanding the initiative to high schools.

The Senate Education Committee registered the complaints Thursday by unanimously adopting a bill that threatens to end Minnesota's participation with the No Child Left Behind program unless a series of changes are made.

Minnesota flirted with a formal rebuke of No Child Left Behind a year ago, but it backed off in part because of concerns that more than $200 million in federal aid would be in jeopardy.

The federal law demands that states test students in reading and math every year from third- to eighth-grade, and requires schools to demonstrate gains among all students toward universal proficiency by 2014. Schools that fall short of annual goals can be forced to ease student transfers, pay for private tutoring or replace the entire staff.

State legislators say it intrudes too much into local education affairs and sets unreasonable expectations for schools.

The new bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, demands that federal officials allow Minnesota to assess student progress differently and ease credential requirements for teachers. Minnesota would ignore the law beginning in 2006 if the changes aren't made.

"If it gets fixed, Minnesota is on board," Kelley said. "The states that have become squeaky wheels tend to get the attention from the secretary."

He was referring to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, whose department recently gave North Dakota more leeway in determining whether veteran teachers were "highly qualified" in the subjects they teach.

In Utah, lawmakers are close to adopting a bill that would emphasize the state's own standards over the federal rules.

Minnesota's No Child Left Behind coordinator, Jessie Montano, said state education officials would like more flexibility but don't want to end its involvement with the law.

"As a result of No Child Left Behind, we have started to see some very positive things happen in our schools," she said.

The committee also passed a nonbinding resolution resisting any move to pursue more federally mandated testing in high school, a concept Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty endorsed this week. President Bush has said he intends to ask Congress for such an expansion.

"At this time and in this place, I think we need to draw the line," said the resolution sponsor, Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina

— Brian Bakst, Associated Press
Duluth News Tribune
2005-03-04
http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/11049054.htm


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