Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is traveling the country to promote what she and others, certainly, view as the success of the No Child Left Behind Act. But in a visit to Topeka, Kan., last week, she acknowledged that one of the federal education law’s provisions was flawed.
The requirement that states identify “persistently dangerous schools” hasn’t worked well, Ms. Spellings said in a roundtable discussion with educators, business leaders, and Kansas officials.
“A not very successful part of the law is this labeling schools as persistently dangerous, which states and law-enforcement officials have been reluctant to do,” Ms. Spellings said, according to the Associated Press. “I think we’re still trying to figure out how to define and how to address some of those issues.”
The matter arose during the Feb. 20 discussion, which happened six days after a former student killed five students and himself on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. The “persistently dangerous” school requirements don’t apply to colleges and universities.
Ms. Spellings noted that the university’s officials had done “everything they could have” to prevent a tragedy and intervene during the event.
“This continues, sadly, to remind us that every single day we need to make sure our school safety plans are in place, that people know about them,” she said.
In her comments, Ms. Spellings essentially agreed with a Department of Education advisory group, which proposed changing the label to avoid the stigma associated with being declared a “persistently dangerous” school. (“Law’s ‘Persistently Dangerous’ Tag Weighed,” Nov. 1, 2006.)
Last year, a House draft bill to reauthorize the NCLB law would have eliminated the phrase “persistently dangerous schools.”
It would have created a new program in which districts would have needed to inform parents if their children’s schools did not “have a safe climate for academic achievement,” the bill said.
But the Bush administration has not made specific recommendations on changing the school safety sections of the NCLB law.
A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2008 edition of Education Week