As Congress gears up for the scheduled reauthorization next year of the No Child Left Behind Act, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who played a backstage role in crafting the law five years ago while serving in the White House, says she doesn’t see much need for substantial change.
“I like to talk about No Child Left Behind as Ivory soap. It’s 99.9 percent pure,” Ms. Spellings told reporters over coffee on Aug. 30, alluding to the classic ad campaign declaring the product “99 and forty-four one-hundredths percent pure.”
“We’ve come a long way in a short time,” she said of the 4½-year-old law, which she credited with focusing attention on groups of students that were often lost in the shuffle, such as racial minorities and students in special education.
“What I see as my job in reauthorization is to bring forth other approaches, other data” for those in Congress and other education policymakers to consider, Ms. Spellings said. Some of the flexibility the Department of Education has offered states in recent years will help illuminate how best to meet the law’s goal of getting every student to proficiency by 2014, she said.
The secretary cited a pilot project allowing two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, to adopt so-called growth models, under which schools get credit for improving individual student performance, even if the schools do not meet proficiency standards. And she cited the department’s decision to permit some states to give students in low-performing schools access to tutoring before allowing them to transfer to other schools, a reversal of the order of those sanctions spelled out in the No Child Left Behind law.
She said that if those ideas prove successful, Congress might decide to incorporate them into the renewal of the education law.
The secretary also said it was time for states, working with the Education Department, to determine how to deal with schools that repeatedly fail to make adequate progress and need to be restructured.“What happens when you get to the end of the line?” Ms. Spellings said.
A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 2006 edition of Education Week as Spellings: Education Law Needs Only a Soft Scrub