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NCLB Outrages

U.S. ed boss hails 'No Child' act

Ohanian Comment: In case you hadn't noticed the parallels between the White House policy in Iraq and NCLB, then Secretary of Education Spellings makes the war metaphor explicit, saying, "The law is good and strong and hawkish and will stay on the books."

By Betsy Lehndorff

The U.S. education secretary said Monday that federal reforms must continue, especially if Colorado business leaders want a pipeline of skilled workers.

Although the No Child Left Behind Act is up for reauthorization this year, "it stays in place, so spread the word," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings told business leaders during an hour-long roundtable discussion at the Brown Palace Hotel.

"The law is good and strong and hawkish and will stay on the books," she said. "The critical thing is that Congress needs to appropriate money for the act."

The event, hosted by Colorado Succeeds, a nonprofit coalition of business people committed to improving schools, gave local business leaders a chance to discuss education issues at the federal level.

The No Child Left Behind act set a course in 2001 for education reform requiring all the nation's school-aged children to be able to read and do math at competent levels by 2014.

Preschool and early education programs, such as Head Start, must have strong ties to local school systems, Spellings said.

That way, all children will know how to hold a pencil when they attend their first kindergarten class and their parents will understand the value of learning, she added.

"Head Start hasn't been looked at since the 1960s," said Bruce Benson, president of Benson Mineral Group and head of the board of trustees at Metropolitan State College.

"That will be a great project for some president other than George Bush," Spellings said, noting the effort to reform Head Start will take time.

Numerous problems must be solved first, such as improving pay for preschool teachers so they aren't siphoned off by public schools to teach kindergarten, which pays better. Many teachers also need additional training in how to teach children to read, she said.

Meanwhile, the federal act and state testing programs are creating data to show what works and what doesn't, Spellings said.

The long-term goal is to allow educators to create more customized programs for students, she said.

Here are some points Spellings passed on to the group:

ΓΆ€ΒΆ A third of Colorado children entering kindergarten for the first time are unable to recite the alphabet, count or hold a pencil.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ Thirty percent of Colorado students that enter ninth grade do not graduate, making Colorado 30th in the nation for graduation rates.

ΓΆ€ΒΆ 50 percent of teachers nationally who graduate from teaching schools leave the profession after five years.

— Betsy Lehndorff
Rocky Mountain News


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