"No Child Left Behind"
Here are highlights of President Bush's education agenda as unveiled last week:
- Annual Tests: States would be required to test all students in grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics as a condition of receiving federal Title I aid.
- Vouchers: In disadvantaged schools that failed to make adequate yearly progress for three consecutive years, students could use Title I funds— matched by state dollars—to transfer to higher-performing public or private schools, or to pay for supplemental educational services.
- Other Forms of School Choice: The secretary of education would award grants for innovative efforts to expand parental choice. Funding would be provided to assist charter schools with start-up costs, facilities, and other needs. Also, the amount of money that families could contribute tax-free to education- savings accounts would be increased to $5,000 a year, and the funds could be used for K-12 expenses, not just higher education, as is the case now.
- Reading: States that established a reading program "anchored in scientific research" in grades K-2 would be eligible for grants under a new Reading First initiative. An Early Reading First initiative would provide grants for preschool programs, including Head Start.
- Technology: Federal E-rate money and technology-grant funds would be consolidated and distributed to schools, on the basis of need, through states and local districts.
- "Charter" States and Districts: States and districts would be allowed to combine most of the money they receive under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including Title I, in exchange for negotiating performance agreements with the secretary of education.
- Rewards and Penalties: States and schools that made the most progress in narrowing the "achievement gap" would be rewarded financially. The secretary of education would have the authority to reduce the federal funding available to a state for administrative expenses if the state failed to meet its performance objectives.
- Teacher Quality: Existing class-size-reduction and Eisenhower professional-development programs would be combined into a flexible fund for teacher quality.
- School Safety: The existing Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities program and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program would be combined into a flexible grant initiative. States receiving aid under the initiative would be required to adopt a zero- tolerance policy for violent or persistently disruptive students.
- Mathematics and Science Instruction: States and districts would be eligible for new federal dollars to help underwrite partnerships with the math and science departments of institutions of higher education to improve instruction in K-12 schools.
- Limited-English-Proficient Students: Federal bilingual education programs would be streamlined into performance- based grants to states and districts. Also, states and districts would be required to teach children in English after three consecutive years of their attendance at school.
Vol. 20, Issue 20, Page 24