Education Reporter's Notebook

Palmetto State Perspective

By Erik W. Robelen & Mark Walsh — September 21, 2004 1 min read

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in an interview at the convention that the No Child Left Behind Act merits some tinkering to shift its emphasis from compliance back to teaching and learning.

“I think it needs some changes, but I think you need to do that in a very careful way,” Mr. Riley said. “I worry that the way it’s being seen in many circles is somewhat punitive rather than challenging, and somewhat top-down instead of encouraging the creative juices of teachers to teach well and for students to learn.”

election 04

Mr. Riley, who was education secretary during all eight years of President Clinton’s administration, headed the delegation from South Carolina, where he was governor from 1979 to 1987.

Asked whether he thought Sen. Kerry would be better than President Bush on education issues, Mr. Riley quickly said: “I think Kerry would be better in every regard, especially on domestic matters. ... Especially on education.”

One troubling facet of the federal education law, he said, is that standards for making adequate yearly progress under it vary widely across the states. Mr. Riley, a former member of the board that oversees the federally sponsored National Assessment of Educational Progress, said: “At some point in time, we ought to have something that looks like national standards. Whether we want to go that far or not, I don’t know.”

Mr. Riley said he remains supportive of the goals of the legislation, but is in favor of making it work “in a very sensible, practical way.”

“We really ought to have more in there about teaching and learning,” he said, “and less about compliance.”