Federal Federal File

Press Secretary

May 17, 2005 2 min read

People in the news media are missing the real story in education these days, according to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

As she put it recently, broadcast and print news organizations should be focusing on how many states and schools are using the federal No Child Left Behind Act to improve student achievement and hold public schools more accountable.

Instead, many news outlets are focusing on what they view as a crisis in education, and the ways a few states and organizations have begun a backlash against the federal law.

Ms. Spellings, speaking May 6 at the annual convention of the Education Writers Association, held in St. Petersburg, Fla., singled out coverage of states that are being particularly rebellious toward the law. The EWA is a Washington-based professional organization for reporters and editors interested in education.

Utah, which may risk the loss of its federal education aid with a new law asserting the primacy of the state’s accountability system over NCLB requirements, “has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation,” she said, noting disparities in Utah between white and Hispanic students. “They must explain their actions to the state’s Hispanic parents.”

In Connecticut, which is threatening to sue the Department of Education over the costs of the No Child Left Behind law, black 4th graders trail their white peers by dozens of points in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, she said.

But while some states take issue with the law, “there are dozens of others that are quietly going about their business” and implementing it, she said. “I really wouldn’t call that a rebellion.”

She lauded Wyoming for high test-score targets under the law, and she cited the narrowing of gaps in test scores in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Illinois, and New Mexico.

Ms. Spellings, who noted that she had taken several journalism classes in college, also pointed out that nowhere in the No Child Left Behind Act is the term “failing school” used.

“Yet this anxiety-provoking term is commonly used in headlines and in the bodies of your stories,” she said. She noted that the statute refers to schools “in need of improvement.”

At one point, the secretary even joked about the flap over the Education Department’s public relations contract involving the commentator Armstrong Williams, which was signed during the tenure of her predecessor, Rod Paige.

“You don’t have to be paid off like pundit Armstrong Williams to like No Child Left Behind,” 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
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

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

Federal How Political Backlash to Critical Race Theory Reached School Reopening Guidance
A lawmaker wants Miguel Cardona to repudiate the Abolitionist Teaching Network after federal COVID-19 documents referenced the group's work.
6 min read
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is seen at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2021 in Washington.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., is seen at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 9, 2021 in Washington.<br/>
Graeme Sloan/SIPA USA via AP
Federal Biden Team: Schools Can Go Beyond Trump Rules in Response to Alleged Sexual Misconduct
The Education Department's guidance, released July 20, states that Title IX rules from 2020 lay out "minimum steps" for educators.
3 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Fact Check: After Furor Over 1619 Project, Feds Adjust History and Civics Grant Plans
A previously obscure history and civics program has weathered a political storm, but what exactly has changed?
4 min read
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on his nomination on Feb. 3, 2021, in Washington.
Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP
Federal 'Stop CRT' Bill, Votes in Congress Add to Political Drama Over Critical Race Theory
Sen. Tom Cotton's legislation and votes about critical race theory in the House underscore the issue's potency in Washington.
5 min read
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a hearing to examine United States Special Operations Command and United States Cyber Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill March 25 in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP