Federal File: Goodbye, wall chart; Presidential prayer and tears

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Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander this month made official what had long been suspected: The Wall Chart is dead.

Created by former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in 1984 and issued every spring since then, the compendium of state education statistics "has gotten a little bit infamous over the years," Mr. Alexander acknowledged.

State officials have long contended that it presented unfair and misleading comparisons of state student achievement. They have argued, for example, that the chart included each state's average performance on college-admissions tests, which are taken by a self-selected sample of college-bound seniors.

At a press conference to release the first state-by-state results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Mr. Alexander said such data, which is to be incorporated into annual "report cards" on the national education goals, would replace the wall chart.

He also made a pitch for expanding naep and creating "American Achievement Tests," a voluntary, national testing system that the Bush Administration has proposed as part of its "America 2000" education strategy.

"The naep tests and the September report card being worked on by the National Education Goals Panel should give a better--although still incomplete--picture of what American children know and can do," he said.

President Bush earlier this month again called on the Congress to approve a Constitutional amendment allowing prayer in public schools.

In an address to the 134th annual Southern Baptist Convention on June 6, the President tearfully discussed the importance of prayer and his faith in God, and tied that to prayer in public schools.

He related the story of a Norman, Okla., fifth-grader whose teachers would not permit her to conduct prayer groups and Bible studies during recess.

"My friends, the day a child's quiet prayer group during recess becomes an unlawful assembly, something's really wrong," the President said. "Let's put people first and allow them the freedom to follow their faith."

Mr. Bush also tied prayer to his domestic agenda, stumping for parental choice of schools and the use of child-care vouchers in religious settings.

In his discussion of how prayer touched his private life, the President deviated from his set speech and cried as he recounted his prayers before the Persian Gulf war.--rr & mp

Vol. 10, Issue 39

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