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NCLB Outrages

Utahns Cheer As Guv Signs NCLB Protest

Provo -- Flanked by state legislators and education officials, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a measure Monday formalizing Utah's protest of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

But while the much talked about House Bill 1001 prioritizes Utah's education accountability system, the need to hold onto federal dollars - as much as $107 million, largely earmarked for disadvantaged students - means Utah won't be leaving NCLB far behind.

"We can't lose that money," state schools Superintendent Patti Harrington said. "It will be the obligation of my office to remain compliant with NCLB."

Harrington said that unless education officials in Washington suddenly budge, she will recommend a "dual system approach" at Wednesday's state school board meeting - with Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS) "on the front page" and NCLB taking up the rear.

Harrington has been trying to speak directly with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings since January, when she first sent the then-new federal official a congratulatory welcome letter. But despite her multiple visits to Washington and repeated attempts to reach out, Harrington said, Spellings has "given me no audience."

With or without Spellings ear, Harrington and officials from Huntsman's office have been in extended negotiations with the feds to push for more flexibility under the NCLB law to determine what is best for Utah's students. Those talks are expected to be ongoing.

But for half an hour Monday, the crowded library of Provo's Amelia Earhart Elementary was a picture of celebration, even proud defiance.
The school, which because of scores by special-needs students did not make adequate yearly progress under NCLB requirements, stood as a symbol of what Utah is fighting.

"I don't have a problem with accountability, but I think a bill that says one size fits all is not appropriate," Principal Rosemarie Smith said.

Dozens of onlookers - including Provo officials, local parents and children - packed the room to witness the signing. Robert McBride sat in the back with his 11-year-old son and spoke for many when he touted the judgment of his own community and its teachers. "Let them do their jobs and get out of their way," he said, not hiding his frustration with the feds.

— Jessica Ravitz
Salt Lake Tribune


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