Published Online: October 12, 2004
Published in Print: October 13, 2004, as The Federalist Papers

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The Federalist Papers

Ousted Minn. Chief Gives Her Outlook on the No Child Left Behind Act

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Former federal education official Cheri Pierson Yecke didn’t rest much after being unceremoniously booted from the top education job in Minnesota this past May.

Ms. Yecke, who was shocked by the Minnesota state Senate’s refusal to confirm her in her position as education commissioner, promptly signed on with a Minneapolis-based think tank, and earlier this month, released a 56-page study of how the federal No Child Left Behind Act is working there.

The report, “Education Accountability in Minnesota: No Child Left Behind and Beyond,” contains her suggestions for tackling some of the problems caused by the nearly 3-year-old law, in both her state and at the federal level.

Cheri Pierson Yecke

Ms. Yecke, who was director of the teacher-quality and public school choice program in the U.S. Department of Education from January 2002 until January 2003, when she was named to the top job in Minnesota, has been a strong supporter of the law, calling it in the report “a law with a noble purpose.”

Now a senior fellow for education and social policy at the conservative Center of the American Experiment, Ms. Yecke tackles issues that range from ineffective teachers to special education. Recommendations for state and federal officials include a pilot program to permit teachers to give up tenure in return for pay increases and a study of transfer students mostly educated outside the state.

On a federal level, she suggests the government use a sliding scale to determine the costs of educating children with different disabilities to more appropriately pay for their educational services. She also encourages more flexibility for special education teachers in meeting the “highly qualified” teachers requirement of the law.

As Minnesota’s education chief, Ms. Yecke was highly controversial, though backed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Republican who appointed her.

In the report, Ms. Yecke, who did not respond to telephone calls or e-mails, writes that Minnesota was slow to make changes when the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted and that the state education department did “little or nothing” to help school districts understand the law. However, “from January 2003 through April 2004, tremendous efforts were exerted to make up for lost time,” she says, referring to her own tenure.

Vol. 24, Issue 07, Page 24

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