[Paleopsych] NYT: Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules
checker at panix.com
Fri Apr 8 18:01:16 UTC 2005
Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules
[I suppose that if I bought into the rhetoric of uplifting the underclass
as an urgent and feasible matter, I might well favor something like the No
Child Left Behind Act as a way of countering nation-wide lobbying of
teachers' unions and the failure of State governments to reign them in
(Similarly, tort reform and medical malpractice reform at the Federal
level aims at countering nation-wide lobbying of trial lawyers and, again,
State government failure.) These failures should be seen as State
*constitutional* defects, as defects of *process* and not as failures of
someone's arbitrary notion of a defect of *product*, usually meaning that
some liberal wants always MORE redistribution, arbitrary for failure to
ever specify how a *just* distribution of the product could be recognized.
[I'd buy into NCLB even more when putting on an establishment hat and
recognizing that schooling is just not going to be privatized in the near
future. Bruce Bartlett, from what I know about his hanging around
libertarian groups, would also favor privatization, but when he came out
in favor of a value-added tax two days ago in an NYT Op-Ed article I sent,
he recognized that voters are not going to stop hounding politicians to
spend more on health care and other "free" goodies.
[The problem is that Republicans have bought into the end-product notion
of justice as the main aim of government, since they have been educated
largely self-interested educators, who frame all issues in these terms
and, moreover, hold that more schooling can actually solve the problem.
The difference is that Republicans think they should be given control,
since their programs can achieve end-product justice, while the Democrats
[If you haven't been socialized into displaying emotions of caring about
the downtrodden, the despised, and the dispossessed, you can still favor
NCLB if it promises to bring about improvements in educating those you do
care about. But NCLB requires each State to adopt uniform State-wide
curriculum standards. These standards, instead of continuing to evolve
toward skills that will be needed for the world of 2025, will devolve to
what can be easily measured and shown progress on. This means drill,
drill, drill, discipline, discipline. Federal politicians will be able to
claim that NCLB is a success, that students are better able than ever
before to enter the world of ...
[Different ages can evoke different emotions, or at least displays of
different emotions: piety during certain periods of Christianity,
productiveness in the age of Franklin, patriotism during wars, end-product
social justice at the end of the last century, and perhaps entrepreneurial
creativity as global competition continues to heat up. The emotions we
individually feel are a product of our genes, our socialization, and our
own life choices. I don't think I got especially socialized along
affective dimensions, and so I value truth and beauty far more than
end-product social justice. For this reason, I am alarmed at the
unintended consequences of NCLB for the gifted.]
By SAM DILLON
MOUNT VERNON, Va., April 7 - Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings offered greater flexibility to states on Thursday in meeting
the requirements of the Bush administration's education reform law,
calling the changes a major policy shift.
In her first national response to growing resistance among state
officials to the law, known as No Child Left Behind, Ms. Spellings
sought to set a new, more cooperative tone. She compared the law's
tempestuous first years to those of an infant's experiencing "the
"This is a new day," she said. "States that show results and follow
the principles of No Child Left Behind will be eligible for new tools
to help you meet the law's goals."
Although President Bush promoted the law during his re-election
campaign as one of his major accomplishments, more than 30 states -
including many Republican strongholds - have raised objections to it.
Some argue that the federal government is not adequately financing its
requirements, which include a broad expansion of standardized testing.
Others object to federal intrusion into an area long considered the
domain of the states.
It was unclear whether Ms. Spellings's proposals went far enough to
assuage state officials' concerns, though several state
superintendents expressed approval, as did both national teachers
unions and several members of Congress.
But Connecticut officials, who announced earlier this week that they
would sue the federal government for forcing the state to conduct more
testing without providing the money to pay for it, were not impressed.
"This supposed initiative offers less than meets the eye," said
Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general. "Nothing in all
of today's verbiage corrects the key legal lapse: by the law's clear
terms, no mandate means no mandate, if it's unfunded. Our
determination to sue continues."
Ms. Spellings announced specific concessions in only one area,
concerning how learning-disabled students must be tested.
Until now, the administration has allowed only 1 percent of all
students, those most severely handicapped, to be given special tests;
all other disabled students have been required to take the test
administered to regular students. Dozens of state officials have
called that policy unfair and unrealistic. On Thursday, Ms. Spellings
said states would be allowed to administer alternative tests to an
additional 2 percent of students.
Ms. Spellings also said the Department of Education could give some
states additional flexibility, but she said they must first prove that
they deserve it.
The states that may be eligible, she said, must have generally sound
educational policies in place, demonstrate that student achievement is
rising and follow the "basic principles of the law," which she listed
as administering standardized tests every year in Grades 3 through 8,
reporting test results by ethnic groups and others to make sure that
all students are advancing, and working to improve teacher training
and parent participation.
For states that meet those criteria, Ms. Spellings said, "it is the
results that truly matter, not the bureaucratic way you get there."
That and several other of her statements brought applause from the
education officials gathered here in an auditorium at George
Ms. Spellings invited all 50 state education superintendents to
appear. About 15 did, as did 10 deputy superintendents, said G. Thomas
Houlihan, executive director of the Council of Chief State School
Officers, an association of state superintendents that gets
significant financing from the Department of Education.
"We have some members who do not like this law," Mr. Houlihan said
after the speech.
"It's meant a lot of heavy lifting," he said, "but this speech has
left me cautiously optimistic" about chances for improving
Trent Blankenship, Wyoming's superintendent of public instruction,
said: "I thought she nailed it. I'm delighted that we'll be having
more flexibility if we stick to the law's principles."
Terry Bergeson, the superintendent in Washington State, said she had
met repeatedly with federal officials in recent months to request
changes in the testing policies for disabled students.
"We've been doing a disservice to those kids under the No Child Left
Behind testing rules," Ms. Bergeson said. "So I was very excited to
hear the changes."
Some education advocates worried that Secretary Spellings's offer of
new flexibility to some states but not others would lead to
"That could make the law even more subject to political manipulation
than it already is," said Monty Neill, co-executive director of
FairTest, a group that opposes heavy reliance on standardized testing.
Patti Harrington, the superintendent of public instruction in Utah,
said she welcomed the new rules for testing disabled students. The
state's Legislature passed a resolution last month protesting the
federal law and is poised to vote on a bill at a special session later
this month that would require Utah officials to follow state
educational priorities rather than federal ones.
As for the broader promise of further flexibility, Ms. Harrington
said, "I hope it's more than a speech."
"I receive these letters from the department that say, 'You must do
this and this and this,' " she added. "They've got to let us do our
Betty J. Sternberg, the education commissioner in Connecticut, did not
attend the speech. In January, she sent Secretary Spellings a letter
noting that Connecticut had tested elementary students effectively in
alternate years for two decades and did not want to expand to every
year, preferring to use the money to expand reading and other programs
proven to raise achievement. Ms. Spellings denied that request and
repeatedly rebuffed Dr. Sternberg's requests for a meeting.
Dr. Sternberg said by phone from Connecticut on Thursday that she had
considered attending the secretary's speech.
"I would have gone," she said, "had I thought that I would be able to
sit down with her, because I'd like to work out our differences in a
conference room, not in a courtroom."
Ms. Spellings left the auditorium immediately after her speech without
taking questions. Dr. Sternberg, who downloaded the speech from the
Internet, pointed to one of the secretary's statements: "No Child Left
Behind was designed not to dictate processes, but to promote
innovation and improve results for kids."
Dr. Sternberg said, "Taking the secretary at her word about
flexibility, then we would ask that the feds not dictate to us the
process of giving standardized tests in every grade, and instead
consider our proposal as an innovation."
"And I still would like to meet with her personally," she added.
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