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NCLB Outrages

Spellings Seeks to Boost 'No Child' Education Secretary Advocates Strengthening 2002 Law

Referring to the corporate
lapdog Aspen Institute as "nonpartisan" is like
calling a vampire "toothless." Just look the
list of performers at the Education Summit in
which Spellings participated.


By Maria Glod

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings
yesterday sought to reinvigorate support for
the No Child Left Behind law even as the two
major-party presidential candidates have
distanced themselves from it. She contended
that the law has helped improve public
education and should be strengthened.

The 2002 federal law, considered one of
President Bush's major domestic achievements,
aims to have all public school students
proficient in reading and math by 2014. But
criticism has grown over the dramatic expansion
of testing mandated under the law, and efforts
to renew and revamp the law have stalled in

In a speech to educators and advocates from
across the country, Spellings urged support for
the law's core principle: requiring states,
school systems and schools to show that
students can handle reading and math at grade

"We must resist pressure to weaken or water
down accountability," Spellings said in an
education summit hosted in the District by the
nonpartisan Aspen Institute. "To those who
reject this goal, I ask, 'What's your answer?'
I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't want
their child on grade level right now, today,
not 2014."

So far, education has been a low-key issue in a
presidential campaign largely dominated by
concerns over the slumping economy, the war in
Iraq and rising oil prices. Republican nominee
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and his Democratic
opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), have said
that they support the goals of No Child Left
Behind but that the law needs to be revised.
McCain, who voted for the legislation, has
avoided mention of the law on the campaign
trail, while Obama has sharply criticized its

In an interview last week, Spellings said she
does not think either candidate would make
renewal of the law a priority upon entering the
White House. "It's not their thing," she said.
"It's George Bush's thing. George Bush
campaigned for president on No Child Left

The law requires annual testing of reading and
math skills in grades three through eight and
once in high school. Schools must show progress
each year, as must groups of students,
including ethnic minorities and disabled
students. Certain schools that fall short face

The law has been credited with revealing
pockets of underperforming students, even in
some highly regarded school systems. But
critics say that schools need more federal
funding to carry out the mandate and that the
focus on reading and math has pushed other
subjects, including history, art and science,
to the back burner.

In the Bush administration's waning months,
Spellings has used regulatory authority to
propose tweaks to enforcement of the law. In
the most significant, all states would be
required by 2013 to use the same formula to
calculate the high school graduation rate.

Spellings also launched a pilot project in
Maryland and several other states that moves
away from the law's "pass-fail" system, which
makes no distinction between a school in which
many students fail reading and math tests and
one that misses targets because a few students
fall short.

— Maria Glod
Washington Post


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