Will wonders never cease

So yesterday, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings allowed as how states should play a larger role in deciding how to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Seems to me that’s what Virginia has been saying all along. And to no avail.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal that back in my teaching days, I was part of a team that taught a class called “The Poetry of Rock.”

I have been atoning for that ever since.

There is nothing wrong with holding high expectations (which, let me assure you, “The Poetry of Rock” did not) for all students. In fact, as Jay Matthews recently pointed out, most American kids still aren’t exactly wearing themselves to a frazzle with hours of daily study. In fact, two thirds of college freshmen say they spent less than an hour a day on homework when they were in high school.

But Virginia, which was one of the first states to institute high standards, has faced a brick wall with what former State Board of Education Chair Michelle Easton used to call the “federales.” Virginia, under the leadership of State Board Chairman Kirk Schroeder, instituted research-based testing standards for students who are still learning to speak English. We also created comprehensive standards for students with disabilities.

The Feds, led by Sec. Spellings, knew better. They wanted no flexibility. Well, any woman who’s ever bought a pair of panty hose marked “one size fits all” knows that it doesn’t. Virginia lawmakers were so frustrated that at one point, the House of Delegates–Republicans and Democrats alike–voted to pass up federal funding if it came with the NCLB strings attached.

But now, when new polls show that most Americans think NCLB has either had no impact or has actually hurt schools? Well, now Ms. Spellings seems to be changing her mind.

2 thoughts on “Will wonders never cease”

  1. Delegate Amundson,

    Quickly glancing at the 2005 NAEP data for Virginia reveals an overall level of acceptable achievement, which is above the national average. However, when the data is disaggregated and racial groups are examined, one finds a significant achievement gap between racial minorities and whites. Moreover, one finds little improvement over the course of NCLB. What is the reason for this and what are the strictures in place in NCLB that prevent the Commonwealth from ameliorating the problem? Half of all black fourth graders are below basic reading proficiency. Test scores in Math for 8th graders show black students 31 points behind their white counterparts which is similar to where kids were in 1990. Hispanic students are similarly behind. Is this the best the Commonwealth can do?

  2. The achievement gap is real, and frankly it is one reason I support disaggregating data, which allowed us to see some painful truths like those you mention. (Although there is evidence that there are factors beyond the school’s control that also contribute to some of the achievement gap, I firmly believe that low expectations for minority kids also play a role.)

    Nonetheless, that is NOT the fight Virginia is having with the Feds, however. We are specifically in a fight about kids with disabilities and kids who are still learning English.

Comments are closed.