No Child Left Behind to be eased
THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 14, 2004
By Sam Dillon
Teacher rules test standards will be softened
Education Secretary Rod Paige says the Bush administration is
working to soften the impact of important provisions of its centerpiece school
improvement law that local educators and state lawmakers have attacked as
arbitrary and unfair.
On Monday, the Education Department will announce policies relaxing a
requirement that says teachers must have a degree or otherwise certify
themselves in every subject they teach, Paige said in an interview on Friday.
Officials are also preparing to offer new flexibility on regulations governing
required participation rates on standardized tests, he said.
Those changes would follow the recent relaxation of regulations governing the
testing of special education students and those who speak limited English. They
appear devised to defuse an outcry against the law, known as No Child Left
Behind, in thousands of local districts, especially in Western states where
powerful Republican lawmakers have called the law unworkable for tiny rural
Legislatures in Utah, Virginia and a dozen other states, many controlled by
Republicans, are up in arms about what they see as the law's intrusion on
states' rights. They have approved resolutions in recent weeks protesting or
challenging the law.
"Education is a state responsibility, so we have to fit the law to what the
states are doing," Paige said in the interview. "I've heard the president say
any number of times that we want to respect the states. The law must not be
Paige said the administration would fiercely resist any effort to amend the law
itself. But he said his aides, working closely with White House officials, had
been seeking to "wring every ounce of flexibility out of the existing language"
to make it workable for local educators.
The law, which President Bush signed in 2002, seeks to raise nationwide
achievement by penalizing schools where scores on standardized tests do not
improve rapidly enough.
Bush is seeking to use the law as a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.
Some experts said the administration's emphasis on flexibility was a new posture
contrasting sharply with its stance last year, when officials in many states
reported that federal officials were brushing aside complaints that some
provisions were unreasonable.
"The department has been dragged into giving new flexibility because of the
uproar over the rigid way officials have been interpreting the law," said Jack
Jennings, executive director of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan
Washington group that has studied the law's implementation.
But Paige's spokeswoman, Susan Aspey, said the rule changes were not being made
in response to political pressure but were the result of a routine review of the
workings of the law in its first year.