States Making Progress Get More Flexibility? (NCLB News)

Big News -- Uncertain Impact:

Everyone's writing about Secretary Spellings' announcement yesterday:

Facing Protests, U.S. Offers Flexibility on Rules NYT
Ed. Dept. vows aid to states, with a catch SPI/AP
'No Child' shifts for group of students Philadelphia Inquirer
Spellings: Flexibility on 'No Child Left Behind' NPR (audio)
Critics Prompt Changes in 'No Child Left Behind' PolicyNPR (audio)

But no one really knows how many states would qualify for the special education testing flexibility, or how uniformly that standard would be applied – an issue raised by CEP’s Patty Sullivan in the Wednesday AP story: U.S. to change No Child Left Behind law (AP).

Clearly, Secty Spellings wants to focus the USDE more on measuring states’ academic progress than on bureaucratic compliance. That seems to be main thrust of her WSJ opinion piece: Reading, 'Riting, Reform (WSJ viaSusan Ohanian).

Hotspots Still Hot:

Another objective has to be making things at least slightly easier for states, several of which have been fomenting at the mouth for weeks and months -- though not nearly the 30 states that some of the papers have been citing -- and many of which are facing AYP requirements that rise steeply this spring.

However, the announcement doesn't seem to change anything with the handful of states that are on the warpath against NCLB:

Connecticut seemed undaunted and unmollified, aiming to continue with its lawsuit despite the announcement: Connecticut to challenge No Child Left Behind law in court USA Today, Connecticut to challenge No Child Left Behind education law Newsday, Connecticut Prepares to Sue US Over Bush Education Law New York Times, State To Sue Over `No Child' Law Hartford Courant.

Perhaps as a sign of solidarity with his home state, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, second in command among Democrats to Ted Kennedy, re-introduced a NCLB revisions bill: Dodd seeks greater flexibility in federal education law Newsday, Dodd Wants Ed Law Reform Hartford Courant.

The changes also might not help in Texas, according to the Chronicle: Easier test may be allowed for more disabled students Houston Chronicle, No Child update may not help state Houston Chronicle, Worst-case projection puts 1,200 schools under par Houston Chronicle.

Nor did tensions seem to be easing in Utah: Utah will press its NCLB challenge Salt Lake Tribune, Utah educators may win leeway on NCLB rules Deseret News, Utah presses federal fight Deseret News, Tensions increase in standoff over No Child Left Behind Salt Lake Tribune, Another NCLB problem Salt Lake Tribune

Cautious Responses

Lacking solid information, many seem to be turning the announcement into an opportunity to comment on the first three years of the law, pro or con.

On Capitol Hill, the announcement won a cautious approval from Messrs. Boehner and Miller, who head the House education committee:

“Today, the Secretary unveiled an approach that, if carried out fairly and without favoritism, could help iron out some of the difficulties in implementing the law,” announced Miller and Boehner.

However, the Committee’s main concern seems to be the vastly different deals that states have cut, which threaten to stretch the law out of shape:

“If the law is implemented with too much variety from state to state, the progress we are making on boosting achievement and improving accountability will be cut short.”

No surprise that there was no reprieve from FairTest's Monty Neill:

"All students – not just those with disabilities -- need high quality assessments that meet their individual needs and learning styles...NCLB’s unreasonable expectations have led to scapegoating disabled students for depressing average test scores.”

The Gadfly sounded its own set of concerns:

"If the Department can come up with a reasonable, objective measure of "progress towards proficiency," it might make sense to cut some slack for states that are truly making significant progress. But if the entire process degenerates into backroom negotiating where states that whine the loudest get breaks-always a possibility-this move could sound the death knell of NCLB."

Concerns About Watering Down NCLB:

Ironically, the Spellings announcement comes on the heels of several news stories and editorials suggesting support for NCLB and opposition to states withdrawing from it.

On Tuesday, the NYT editorial page came out in favor of the underlying requirements of the law, and against rebels like Utah. “If any state needs federal prodding to achieve better results, Utah does” Fixing No Child Left Behind.

Connecticut’s effort to sue over NCLB has also run into some negative coverage: State's Federal Lawsuit Criticized, The Hartford Courant, Group urges state to close gap in test scores Connecticut Post

In Utah, a couple of pieces in the Salt Lake Tribune also raised the achievement gap issue:
Utah ignores Latino education gap that law would expose Salt Lake Tribune, Minorities question Utah's NCLB answer Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's NCLB challenge begins to fuel dissent

And in Florida, a state that had been struggling mightily with the inconsistencies between NCLB and the state’s A+ accountability system, the state department of education finally applied for modifications to its plan that would ease some of the tensions: Florida proposes changes to way feds grade state schools Sun-Sentinel.com, Schools seek revision to federal grading plan Orlando Sentinel.

Best of the Rest:
A Lucrative Brand of Tutoring Grows Unchecked NYT
Regulate federal tutoring Daily Free Press
Parents seek tutoring for preschoolers Christian Science Monitor
What does $200 million buy? Chicago Tribune
Hawaii Claims Highest Pct of Failing Schools Hawaii Reporter
NCLBlaw forces 2 Davis schools to offer transfers Salt Lake Tribune
Schools' poverty funds cut Sacramento Bee
Florida voucher threat causes schools to improve Tallahassee.com,
Greer heads panel to study NCLB impact Osceola News-Gazette
Eight mis-conceptions about AYP American Federation of Teachers
Local AYP appeals granted Jacksonville Daily Progress


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