Federal

Spellings to Listen, But Not Retreat, on NCLB

By Lynn Olson — February 04, 2005 3 min read

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

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
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
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
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
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Customer Support Specialist, Tier 1
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

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
Federal Congress Again Tries to Pass Eagles Act, Focused on School Shootings After Parkland
A group of bipartisan Congressional lawmakers is once again trying to get a law passed aimed at preventing school violence.
Devoun Cetoute & Carli Teproff
2 min read
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Suzanne Devine Clark, an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2019 during the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal Some Districts Extend Paid Leave Policies as They Hope for Passage of Biden Relief Plan
With federal provisions having expired, some school employees have had to dip into their own banks of leave for COVID-19 purposes.
5 min read
Linda Davila-Macal, a seventh grade reading teacher at BL Garza Middle School in Edinburg, Texas, works from her virtual classroom at her home on Aug. 31, 2020.
A teacher leads a virtual classroom from her home.
Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP
Federal President Biden Is Walking a 'Careful Tightrope' When It Comes to School Reopenings
CDC guidance and confusion over his rhetoric turn up the pressure, and could overshadow progress in schools and nuanced public opinion.
9 min read
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Feb. 16, 2021.
President Joe Biden answers questions during a televised town hall event in Milwaukee earlier this month.
Evan Vucci/AP