Federal

Montana Leads Choir of Rural Concerns Over ‘No Child’ Law

By Alan Richard — April 02, 2003 4 min read

In a sign that disenchantment with the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 may be growing in rural America, Montana’s Republican governor wants the federal government to change parts of the law that she believes will hit many rural schools and states the hardest.

Gov. Judy Martz

Gov. Judy Martz co-wrote a letter dated March 19 to her state’s congressional delegation, saying Montana cannot meet the federal law’s mandates without flexibility and waivers in some cases.

“I do support the president in this agenda. It’s something that’s been badly needed,” the governor said in an interview last week. “But having said that, there are some things as we walk through it that, not only for rural Montana but the rural parts of our nation, have to be addressed.”

Educators and leaders in several rural states share her worries.

Many say the law’s requirements that states ensure a “highly qualified” teacher in every classroom and provide help for perhaps thousands of low-performing schools will cost too much and require much larger staffs than many state education agencies now have.

Gov. Martz and other leaders in rural states also worry that the tiny enrollments of many rural schools will skew test-score results and thus force states to punish schools based on unreliable or wildly fluctuating data.

The leaders also are concerned about the ability of states and schools to collect and analyze vast new amounts of data, and to provide school transfers or extra help for students in low-rated schools.

Asked if she thought it impossible for Montana to meet certain parts of the law, Gov. Martz replied: “It’s pretty impossible to do right now, yes. I think they’re going to have to let rural communities and rural states [have some flexibility].”

In the Same Boat

Echoing Montana’s concerns, the Alaska state board of education passed a resolution March 21 asking the U.S. Department of Education to allow its state to diverge somewhat from the No Child Left Behind Act, an overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

If the department doesn’t agree, the resolution says, the board will ask Congress to intervene.

The law requires states to measure annual progress in reading and mathematics separately based on the percent of students who score at least at the “proficient” level on state tests. Alaska wants to gauge yearly progress by combining the results of tests in reading, writing, and math; the scores from students at all achievement levels; and a measure of students’ growth over time. Otherwise, in a state where 135 of the public schools enroll fewer than 100 students each, the success of each school as determined by such measures could rise and fall dramatically each year, Alaska officials say.

“We need this flexibility for it to work in Alaska,” said Harry Gamble, the spokesman for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

Alaska officials also worry about the federal law’s requirement that every teacher be “highly qualified” in every subject they teach by the end of the 2005-06 school year, or right now for newly hired teachers in Title I schools. Currently, 20 percent of Alaska’s schools employ three or fewer teachers, most of whom teach multiple subjects and grades.

Mr. Gamble said that Gov. Frank H. Murkowski, recently retired state Commissioner of Education Shirley Holloway, and others traveled to Washington in March to make their pitch to federal officials.

“It didn’t seem like they were empathetic to our plan, but we don’t know yet,” Mr. Gamble said.

The National Rural Education Association has passed a legislative platform that “supports the suspension of the enforcement of this act if there are not necessary modifications and funding to assist rural districts in complying” with the federal education law.

“There comes a point where there’s got to be some middle ground here,” added Polly Feis, the deputy education commissioner in Nebraska, where leaders have similar concerns.

Meeting of the Minds?

Officials of the federal Department of Education continue to say they will cooperate with states as much as possible to help them meet the intent of the law.

“Secretary Paige and his team absolutely recognize the concerns that have been raised,” Education Department spokesman Dan Langan said last week. “There are lots of different issues that are often unique to individual states.”

But state leaders might not be able to count on the federal department to agree with them.

“We think it’s way too premature to talk about opening this law, and we wouldn’t be very inclined to support that,” Mr. Langan said.

Montana leaders made some of their specific wishes known in their letter last month. It requests that the federal law “be changed to allow states to waive the most stringent requirements for highly qualified teachers” if states perform at or above national averages on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests. The letter also solicited more funding to help states assist low-performing schools, and sought extra time for rural schools to meet test-score goals.

The Council of Chief State Schools Officers is working to help states iron out their issues with the law, said Patricia Sullivan, a deputy executive director of the Washington-based group. “I honestly don’t think anybody at this point has the solutions nailed down,” she said.

Events

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
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
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
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

2021-2022 Teacher (Districtwide)
Dallas, TX, US
Dallas Independent School District
[2021-2022] Founding Middle School Academic Dean
New York, NY, US
DREAM Charter School
DevOps Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
User Experience Analyst
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

Federal Biden Announces Goal to Get Educators the COVID-19 Vaccine This Month
President Joe Biden pushes states to get educators at least one dose by the end of March to help schools resume in-person learning.
4 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Explainer Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education: Background and Achievements
Background and highlights of Miguel Cardona's tenure as the twelfth U.S. Secretary of Education.
Education Week Library
2 min read
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., on Dec. 23, 2020.
Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, speaks after being put forward for the position by then-President-elect Joe Biden in December 2020.
Carolyn Kaster/AP
Federal Senate Confirms Miguel Cardona as Education Secretary
The former Connecticut education commissioner got his start as an elementary school teacher and was a principal and school administrator.
2 min read
Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Secretary of Education, speaks after being introduced at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.
Miguel Cardona was confirmed by the Senate to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. The former Connecticut education commissioner has worked as a teacher, principal, and district administrator.
Carolyn Kaster/AP
Federal Biden Legal Team Steps Back From Trump Stance on Transgender Female Sports Participation
The Education Department's office for civil rights pulls a letter that said Connecticut's transgender-inclusive policy violates Title IX.
4 min read
Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins the final of the 55-meter dash over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in the Connecticut girls Class S indoor track meet at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn on Feb. 7, 2019. Transgender athletes are getting an ally in the White House next week as they seek to participate as their identified gender in high school and college sports. Attorneys on both sides say they expect President-elect Joe Biden’s Department of Education will switch sides in legal battles that could go a long way in determining whether transgender athletes are treated by the sex on their birth certificates or by how they identify.
Bloomfield High School transgender athlete Terry Miller, second from left, wins over transgender athlete Andraya Yearwood, far left, and other runners in an event in New Haven, Conn. The two transgender athletes are at the center of a legal fight in Connecticut over the participation of transgender female athletes in girls' or women's sports.
Pat Eaton-Robb/AP