Federal

Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB

By Lynn Olson — February 04, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said today 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.”

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.

“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.

Related Tags:

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
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.
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
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft

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 Conservative Backlash Pushes Biden Administration to Dissolve New National Parent Council
Parent advocacy groups sued the U.S. Department of Education over the council, claiming it was unlawfully biased.
6 min read
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks during a roundtable with School District of Philadelphia officials, the principal, a teacher, and a parent at the Olney Elementary School Annex in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona talks during a roundtable discussion last year in Philadelphia.
Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
Federal How a Divided Congress Will Influence K-12 Education Policy
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives education committees will have new leaders in January.
6 min read
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks Monday, June 13, 2022, during a debate with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, Hosted by Fox News at the The Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston for a debate intended to prove that bipartisanship isn't dead.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a June debate with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, at The Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston. Sanders is poised to become the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
Josh Reynolds/AP
Federal What the Federal 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Actually Says
The bill would restrict federal funds for lessons on LGBTQ identities. The outcome of this week's election could revive its prospects.
4 min read
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol on March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people.
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in Tallahassee on March 7, 2022. Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law was a model for a federal bill introduced last month.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal Fed's Education Research Board Is Back. Here's Why That Matters
Defunct for years, the National Board for Education Sciences has new members and new priorities.
2 min read
Image of a conference table.
vasabii/iStock/Getty