Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.

State Boards Worried About ESEA’s Impact

October 23, 2002 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

State school board members and other education leaders from around the country gathered here this month with a new federal education law very much on their minds.

Despite the various sessions offered during the annual conference of the National Association of State Boards of Education, held Oct. 10-12, the session on the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001 drew the largest crowds and dominated discussions here.

Among other mandates, the law, which is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, requires states to report test scores by demographic subgroups and document that schools make “adequate yearly progress.”

But even as most state board members expressed support for the goals of the law, many worried aloud about how to implement it without losing the strengths of their own school accountability systems established over the past few years.

State and local education leaders here vented frustration over officials in the U.S. Department of Education and members of Congress, who they believe know far too little about how much states have already done to raise standards.

Asked if federal officials would consider changes to the law, one state chief expressed doubt during a panel discussion.

Ted Stilwill

“For the most part, what I’m hearing is, ‘Stop whining and just do it,’ ” said Ted Stilwill, the director of the Iowa education department. “We’re going to have to sort through this. There are many things we don’t know about the implementation of this law. You’ve just got to accept the next three or four years are going to be nuts.”

Susan B. Neuman, the federal Education Department’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, agreed there will be bumps along the way.

“We don’t have all the answers yet,” she said. “These issues are very complicated. I guarantee you you’re going to be frustrated. No Child Left Behind is a vision of education. It’s a bold and audacious plan for education. That’s why it’s hard and that’s why it’s a challenge.”

Superintendent Roy Romer of the 723,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District, who as governor of Colorado was a national leader in efforts to improve states’ academic performance, urged NASBE members to stay focused on enhancing the quality of classroom teaching.

“We have lost track in our administrative systems of how to improve instruction,” he said. “You really need to focus on what is going on in the classroom.” Mr. Romer, who said leading the nation’s second-largest school district is more challenging than being governor, emphasized setting high standards and using school performance data to target resources to struggling schools.

While many educators worry that accountability in education means overtesting students, Mr. Romer said tests are critical. “If you can’t measure it, you don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “If I were in your shoes, I would say we have to be more demanding of everyone in the system.”

Even as state board members grapple with the demands of the No Child Left Behind law, they should pay as much attention to students’ health and physical fitness, according to two speakers at the San Diego gathering.

That was the message from Phil Lawler, the coordinator of physical education in the 19,000- student Naperville, Ill., schools, and Jean Blaydes Madigan, a former Texas “physical education teacher of the year” who now consults schools on the link between fitness and academic achievement.

Mr. Lawler’s physical education curriculum, which includes checking students’ cholesterol and heart rates, has received national attention. “You’ve got to have quality, daily physical education,” he said.

Ms. Madigan, who had conference members stand and loosen tight muscles, said despite the budget crunch that most states are facing, it makes no sense to skimp on physical education. Brain research, she said, shows that students who are healthier also perform better in the classroom.

“Daily physical activity can improve academic performance,” she said.

—John Gehring

Related Tags:


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

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

States Q&A How Districts Can Navigate Tricky Questions Raised by Parents' Rights Laws
Where does a parent's authority stop and a school's authority begin? A constitutional law scholar weighs in.
6 min read
Illustration of dice with arrows and court/law building icons: conceptual idea of laws and authority.
Andrii Yalanskyi/iStock/Getty
States What 2024 Will Bring for K-12 Policy: 5 Issues to Watch
School choice, teacher pay, and AI will likely dominate education policy debates.
7 min read
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. President Joe Biden on Tuesday night will stand before a joint session of Congress for the first time since voters in the midterm elections handed control of the House to Republicans.
The rising role of artificial intelligence in education and other sectors will likely be a hot topic in 2024 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, as well as in state legislatures across the country.
Mariam Zuhaib/AP
States How a Parents' Rights Law Halted a Child Abuse Prevention Program
State laws that have passed as part of the parents' rights movement have caused confusion and uncertainty over what schools can teach.
7 min read
People hold signs during a protest at the state house in Trenton, N.J., Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote Monday on legislation to eliminate most religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren, as opponents crowd the statehouse grounds with flags and banners, including some reading "My Child, My Choice."
People hold signs during a protest at the state house in Trenton, N.J., on Jan. 13, 2020, opposing legislation to eliminate most religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren. In North Carolina, a bill passed to protect parents' rights in schools caused uncertainty that led two districts to pause a child sex abuse prevention program out of fear it would violate the new law.
Seth Wenig/AP
States More States Are Creating a 'Portrait of a Graduate.' Here's Why
A portrait of a graduate is a guiding document outlining a vision of what it means to be a successful student.
8 min read
Image of attributes of a graduate.
Parker Shatkin for Education Week with iStock/Getty