Original URL: http://www.dailystar.com/dailystar/news/13822.php

No Child Left Behind to be eased
March  14, 2004
By Sam Dillon

Teacher rules test standards will be softened

Education Secretary Rod Paige says the Bush administration is working to soften the impact of important provisions of its centerpiece school improvement law that local educators and state lawmakers have attacked as arbitrary and unfair.
On Monday, the Education Department will announce policies relaxing a requirement that says teachers must have a degree or otherwise certify themselves in every subject they teach, Paige said in an interview on Friday. Officials are also preparing to offer new flexibility on regulations governing required participation rates on standardized tests, he said.
Those changes would follow the recent relaxation of regulations governing the testing of special education students and those who speak limited English. They appear devised to defuse an outcry against the law, known as No Child Left Behind, in thousands of local districts, especially in Western states where powerful Republican lawmakers have called the law unworkable for tiny rural schools.
Legislatures in Utah, Virginia and a dozen other states, many controlled by Republicans, are up in arms about what they see as the law's intrusion on states' rights. They have approved resolutions in recent weeks protesting or challenging the law.
"Education is a state responsibility, so we have to fit the law to what the states are doing," Paige said in the interview. "I've heard the president say any number of times that we want to respect the states. The law must not be unreasonable."
Paige said the administration would fiercely resist any effort to amend the law itself. But he said his aides, working closely with White House officials, had been seeking to "wring every ounce of flexibility out of the existing language" to make it workable for local educators.
The law, which President Bush signed in 2002, seeks to raise nationwide achievement by penalizing schools where scores on standardized tests do not improve rapidly enough.
Bush is seeking to use the law as a centerpiece of his re-election campaign. Some experts said the administration's emphasis on flexibility was a new posture contrasting sharply with its stance last year, when officials in many states reported that federal officials were brushing aside complaints that some provisions were unreasonable.
"The department has been dragged into giving new flexibility because of the uproar over the rigid way officials have been interpreting the law," said Jack Jennings, executive director of the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan Washington group that has studied the law's implementation.
But Paige's spokeswoman, Susan Aspey, said the rule changes were not being made in response to political pressure but were the result of a routine review of the workings of the law in its first year.