School & District Management

Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB

By Erik W. Robelen & Lynn Olson — February 08, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said last week that there “is room to maneuver” through the administrative process in carrying out the No Child Left Behind Act. But, she cautioned, “I don’t want people to think that No Child Left Behind is up for grabs. It’s not.”

See Also

Ms. Spellings, who took office Jan. 20, emphasized in a Feb. 4 interview with Education Week that there are some “bright-line pieces of this statute that are nonnegotiable.” One of those, she said, is annual testing in grades 3-8, which she called “integral to the implementation of everything.”

President Bush’s administration has given a lot of time and resources to help states put the tests in place, she said, “so don’t be coming down here and telling me you haven’t done it.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is flanked by President Bush and her husband, Robert Spellings, as she takes a ceremonial oath of office at the Department of Education on Jan. 31. She was officially sworn in on Jan. 20.

Despite many calls to amend the law in Congress, Ms. Spellings also expressed no desire to go that route. “I hope that the Department of Education will be the first place that people seek a solution,” she said.

But she maintained that refinements and modifications could be done through administrative actions “without running to the Congress and asking for a statutory change.”

At the same time, the secretary made it clear that states shouldn’t expect waivers from the law under her watch. She argued that before the Bush administration took office in 2001, “it was ‘waiver city,’ and I think people got, maybe, a little complacent.”

Many states had failed to comply with all the provisions under the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The No Child Left Behind law is the current version of the ESEA.

“There is room to maneuver through the administrative process without waivers,” Ms. Spellings said, noting that in some areas the administration has already done that. “But this ‘waive everything’—no. That’s a slippery slope.”

Overall, Ms. Spellings said she is glad that much of the conversation has turned to technical refinements of the law. “I think we’ve rounded the corner,” she said. “I think people think that this law is here to stay.”

Qualified Teachers

At least when it comes to ensuring a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom, the Education Department last week seemed to signal that there could be some additional leeway for states.

After extended negotiations between the agency and North Dakota officials, the two sides agreed that veteran elementary teachers in that state will be able to meet the law’s “highly qualified teacher” provisions if they have an elementary education major and are fully licensed.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as a reversal by any stretch,” Ms. Spellings said. She noted that the state now has a “high, objective, uniform state standard of evaluation,” or HOUSSE, which it had lacked previously.

Under the law, teachers already in the classroom can demonstrate that they are highly qualified either by having a major or passing a test in their subject, or by meeting alternative standards developed by each state based on broad federal guidelines. Studies have shown those standards vary widely across states.

North Dakota officials justified to the department that the state requirements for an elementary education major include more than 40 hours of coursework in the core academic subjects, sufficient to demonstrate subject-matter competency.

Ms. Spellings said she needed to review state plans for meeting the highly-qualified-teacher provisions of the law before she could respond to criticisms.

“I just got here,” she noted.

The secretary declined to provide many specifics about President Bush’s high school proposals, beyond what has been released thus far. The president has proposed greater accountability for high schools, in part through expanded testing, as well as additional supports and interventions for students performing below grade level. (“Bush’s High School Agenda Faces Obstacles,” this issue.)

“Basically, we believe that the same sound principles that undergird No Child Left Behind in grades 3-8 ought to be extended in the high schools,” the secretary said, “and that includes regular measurement and reporting that data in a disaggregated way.”

One issue is that since most high schools do not receive federal Title I money, they would not, as the law is currently written, be subject to the consequences spelled out in the act, such as the requirement to provide school choice and supplemental services.

Ms. Spellings said, “These are the things we’re going to negotiate with the Congress, obviously.”

She noted that many governors are starting to talk about “high school proficiency and readiness [for work and college] and completion in their own states.”

“I’m anxious to see how they’re doing these things,” she said, noting that state policies typically apply to all schools, not just Title I schools.

A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Staff Shortages Affect Students, Too. Here's Where Schools Are Shutting Down
A few months into the third academic year in a row disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, at least several dozen school buildings in numerous states have had to shut down due to inadequate staffing.
1 min read
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a WI-FI hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning on the first day of class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in the parking lot of the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville, Texas. The bus is one of 20 hotspots throughout the city to help students have access to their online classes as part of the remote start to the school year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Several shool buildings in different parts of the country have had to shut down in recent weeks due to a lack of available bus drivers.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP
School & District Management Opinion We’re Facing a Looming Crisis of Principal Burnout
Caught in the crosshairs of a pandemic and rancorous partisan battles, many principals have never been more exhausted.
David E. DeMatthews
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration of burnt-out leader.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management What Teachers Value Most in Their Principals
For National Principals Month, we asked teachers what they love most about their principals. Here's what they had to say.
Hayley Hardison
1 min read
Illustration of job candidate and check list.
Getty
School & District Management How Staff Shortages Are Crushing Schools
Teachers are sacrificing their planning periods, students are arriving hours late, meals are out of whack, and patience is running thin.
11 min read
Stephanie LeBlanc, instructional strategist at Greeley Middle School in Cumberland Center, Maine.
Stephanie LeBlanc, an instructional strategist at Greely Middle School in Cumberland Center, Maine, has picked up numerous additional duties to help cover for staffing shortages at the school.
Ryan David Brown for Education Week