Not the Response the USDE Had Hoped For (NCLB News)

Last week's announcement by Secretary Spellings was supposed to herald a kinder, gentler NCLB that would soothe states and educators and mute criticism that the Department was being obstinate.

So far, at least, it doesn't seem to be turning out that way.

Right off the bat, unanswered questions about such basic things as which states would get the flexibility and how progress would be measured took much of the luster off of the announcement and yielded iffy headlines like: Rules Loosened for No Child Left Behind Law Los Angeles Times.

Into that void stepped NCLB critics, who had a field day taking potshots at the law and claiming credit for having caused the Administration to take pause: Critics Prompt Changes in 'No Child Left Behind' Policy NPR.

It didn't help things much that few of the critics' fundamental concerns were clearly addressed by the Secretary's announcement, and didn't change things a bit for states like Texas that are on the verge of breaking with Washington over the law: Texas to get tough lesson on No Child law Chicago Tribune.

Then, Thursday night on the PBS NewsHour, Secretary Spellings inflamed passions even more when she pretty much called the state of Connecticut "un-American" for not wanting to comply with NCLB. You can read the transcript here. State called 'un-American' Connecticut Post.

It's not clear why the Department insisted on making the announcement of the 3 percent rule a quid pro quo. Perhaps there was some problem with giving everyone the same flexibility, but in the short term at least it might well have worked better to have rolled out a simpler, more straightforward scheme and let the press cover that.

Not being able to say which states would benefit gave reporters little else to do than cover reactions and past criticisms -- and that misleading 30 state statistic that appeared in almost every story. (Thirty states are not on the verge of withdrawing from NCLB.)

The tit-for-tat format of the new NCLB setup also reminded everyone that there are already essentially 50 different versions of NCLB being implemented, not only because state tests and proficiency levels are so different but also because each state's approved plan and modifications contains a different set of agreements about how AYP will be calculated, among other things.

Thus far, at least, the Administration has avoided establishing a critical mass of politically motivated concessions to states, but saying we're going to treat some states differently than others raises obvious concerns (and likely scrutiny) that the Department has thus far muted.


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