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Virginia Legislators Assail NCLB

"There is enough wrong with this legislation now that it is creating negative effects that I think are going to have adverse long-term repercussions."

Ohanian Comment: And for once, politicians are mentioning something besides money. Hickok concedes maybe the law needs some "tweaks." Let's apply the tweaks with a sledgehammer.

Three prominent figures in Virginia's education landscape told a top federal education official yesterday they had serious reservations about the No Child Left Behind Act.

The occasion was a visit to the University of Richmond's Jepson School of Leadership by U.S. Undersecretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok, who served as leader in residence.

He took questions after extolling the virtues of the sweeping education law and describing his vision of the future of education.

Del. James H. Dillard II, R-Fairfax, vowed that he and several other General Assembly members would meet with Virginia's congressional delegation to try to change several aspects of the law.

Chief among those concerns would be the complex adequate-yearly-progress provision. The state Department of Education recently released a list of schools that made or failed to make adequate progress according to the formula set forth in the federal law.

Across the state, 997 of 1,822 schools - 55 percent - met the benchmark. But only 18 of the 132 school divisions - 14 percent - made it, and the state as a whole also did not.

The fact that Fairfax County, which Dillard said is not only one of the best school divisions in the state but in the country, did not meet the progress standard shows the benchmark is "ridiculous."

"There is enough wrong with this legislation now that it is creating negative effects that I think are going to have adverse long-term repercussions," Dillard told Hickok.

"Now would be the perfect time to make changes, and I would further add that there will be more and more pressure brought to bear to make sure these changes are made."

Hickok had earlier responded to similar concerns raised by Kirk T. Schroder, who served as president of the Virginia Board of Education from 1998 to 2002, and to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary.

Schroder was best known for his advocacy for the state's Standards of Learning testing program.

Hickok said that the sentiment in the White House and on Capitol Hill is that any tweaks to No Child Left Behind should be done through regulations, not by reopening the law itself.

"I do think it's a concern that it's too soon to talk about amending the law," he said. "One of the primary reasons is because once you open up that door, goodness knows how you're going to close it. And there are a lot of people, frankly, who don't like this law because they are opposed to accountability."

Kenneth R. Ruscio, dean of the Jepson School, said Hickok was chosen as a leader in residence because of the role he has played in shaping the No Child Left Behind law, as well as his academic background.

Hickok was Pennsylvania's secretary of education and a founding member of the Education Leaders Council, a group of reform-minded education chiefs who oversee 30 percent of the nation's K-12 students. He previously taught political science at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., served as director of the college's Interdisciplinary Study of Contemporary Issues, and was an adjunct professor at the Dickinson School of Law.

He also was associate director of the political science department at Mississippi State University and director of financial aid at Hampden-Sydney College, his alma mater. He received his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Virginia.

— Jason Wermers
State figures assail education law
Richmond Times Dispatch
http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031771301522


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