[Paleopsych] NYT: Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules

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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 
have failed.

[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.]


    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
    terrible 2's."

    "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
    Washington's plantation.

    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
    federal-state relations.

    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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