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Washington Triumphs

GOV. Arnold Schwarzenegger and U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced a "compromise" last week over how many California school districts are failing to meet the requirements of the federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

On closer inspection, it isn't much of a compromise at all.

The feds deigned to allow the state to make some technical adjustments in how it crunches various statistics. Instead of labeling 310 districts as having failed to make "adequate yearly progress" for two years in a row as defined by Washington, only 150 are now on the federal target list.

Big deal. That is still almost 1 in 5 of California's 1,056 school districts. Understand that we're not talking about individual schools. We're talking about entire school districts.

Still on the failing list are districts like Berkeley, Fremont, Cupertino and Los Angeles. Cupertino students had higher scores than all but 15 other California districts. The reason? The district met all requirements on 33 subgroups of students, but fell short on one group when only 94 percent of special-education students took the math portion of the state's proficiency test. That's six fewer students than the 95 percent required by federal law.

If districts continue to fall short of the bureaucratic requirements of the law, in the 2007-08 school year they face the threat of multiple punishments, including possibly -- get this -- being abolished altogether.

Last week's "compromise" does nothing to resolve the conflict between the state's own accountability system, and a new one superimposed on it by politicians in Washington. Instead of tinkering with numbers, what's needed is fundamental reform of a deeply flawed federal statute.

— Editorial
San Francisco Chronicle


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