Warner: Va. needs support on NCLB
So will this intransigence cool Republican ardor for NCLB?
By Lindsay Kastner
Sen. John W. Warner is asking the U.S. Department of Education for cooperation as Virginia requests extra time to implement an alternate reading test for students with limited English skills.
"Certainly, in voting for the No Child Left Behind Act, it was my intention that the new law would work in conjunction with Virginia's educational successes," Warner, R-Va., wrote in the letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. The letter was released by his office this week.
"I firmly believe that the goals of NCLB are solid," Warner wrote. "However, we all recognize that there have been challenges in implementing the law."
The U.S. Department of Education had told Virginia officials that the state's substitute Standards of Learning reading test taken by English language learners did not meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. In response, the Virginia Board of Education voted to turn to a different substitute test, a portfolio assessment originally developed for special-education students.
School districts around the state objected, saying teachers haven't been trained to compile the portfolios.
State Superintendent of Instruction Billy K. Cannaday Jr. said last month that the state would ask for a one-year extension to allow time to train teachers.
Warner asked that the U.S. Department of Education keep him apprised of the status of that request and "continue to work in conjunction with Virginia officials to address this matter."
On Dec. 11, Cannaday will meet in Washington with U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary Henry Johnson and others to discuss the matter.
Following is the full text of Senator Warner's letter:
November 17, 2006
The Honorable Margaret Spellings
Secretary of Education
United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Virginia and "No Child Left Behind"
Dear Secretary Spellings:
Since the mid-1990s, when Virginia's nationally recognized Standards of Learning reform was launched, the Commonwealth of Virginia has led the nation in the implementation of high academic standards and true accountability. Virginia is now nearing the completion of its 9th school year of SOL testing. Not only have SOL scores for all students in all ethnic groups risen dramatically since the launch of SOL testing in 1997, but so have the scores of Virginia students on national tests such as the SAT, Stanford 9 and NAEP.
Virginia's significant success in implementing high academic standards and accountability through its SOL reform makes it important that the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) be implemented in such as a way as to support and reinforce Virginia's Standards of Learning program. Certainly, in voting for the No Child Left Behind Act, it was my intention that the new law would work in conjunction with Virginia's educational successes.
I firmly believe that the goals of NCLB are solid. However, we all recognize that there have been challenges in implementing the law. I applaud you for working with Virginia, to date, in providing some measure of common sense regulatory flexibility in recognition of Virginia's strong accountability system.
I write today because it has come to my attention that the Department of Education has rejected the Virginia test required by NCLB to measure the progress of immigrants learning English (SELP assessment). As I understand, Virginia received comments from the Department on its first assessment system submission and Virginia plans to take these comments into consideration in developing an alternative assessment. Further, the Virginia Board of Education, which has administered the SOL program since its inception and is now responsible for implementing NCLB, has voted to ask the Department to give the state more time to develop an alternative test.
I respectfully request that the Department continue to work in conjunction with Virginia officials to address this matter. In addition, I ask that the Department keep me apprised of any additional action regarding the ESL testing required by NCLB in Virginia, including the status of the state's request for an extension.
Thank you for your assistance with this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.
United States Senator
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES