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Standardistos Hold Conference to Explain NCLB

MARLBOROUGH -- It's geared at remembering all students, not leaving anyone in the dark, yet the same individuals who are supposed to enforce the No Child Left Behind Act don't fully understand the mandate or its implications.

For some school administrators and officials, the only thing they know for sure is that it is required as a federal mandate.

Superintendents, principals and teachers listened attentively yesterday as a panel of education experts talked about the mandate.

"(The act) is a topic that's of great importance to people and that will have an impact," said S. Paul Reville, executive director of the Center for Education Research and Policy at MassInc.

MassInc, the lead sponsor of yesterday's event held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center, is a nonpartisan organization devoted to developing a public agenda for Massachusetts that promotes growth and vitality.

In October, MassInc developed its research center with the goal of developing a plan to inform and promote improvements in public education in the Bay State.

The idea behind yesterday's panel discussion was to examine the act and ask the question, "How does the architecture of federal education reform stand on our own agenda?" Reville asked, referring to the state's Education Reform Act of 1993. Discussion also focused on what the law implies, who it affects and what the overall act stands for.

Panelists included David Driscoll, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education; Jack Jennings, founder and director of the Center on Education Policy in Washington, D.C.; Mary Elizabeth Beach, special assistant to the superintendent of Springfield Public Schools; and James Caradonio, superintendent of Worcester Public Schools.

Jennings, who delivered the keynote address, discussed results from a national report his office conducted last year. The results of the report, "From the Capital to the Classroom: State and Federal Efforts to Implement the No Child Left Behind Act," were released earlier this month.

"The law itself, it's meant to affect every child, every school, every teacher in public education," Jennings said. "It has very high expectations."

Over the summer and fall of 2002, Jennings spent time talking with officials in every state about the new law and what was being done to implement it into school systems.

Yesterday, Jennings talked about his months of research, saying that the report yielded much information including the overwhelming feeling that the goals behind the act are solid -- it's the implementation that's the problem.

It's the nature of the requirements and what's needed to carry them out that school officials across the country are having trouble with, Jennings said. States, including Massachusetts, are rapid on implementing aspects of the law such as more student testing, something that there is more widespread knowledge about among colleagues. But states, he said, are very slow at implementing new programs the act calls for like the establishment of non-profit and for-profit groups to be developed to support student tutoring.

Teachers got a chance to ask questions about parts of the law they didn't understand during a brief question-and-answer session at the end of the discussion.

About 250 attended the MassInc event. For more information on MassInc or to read about upcoming events, go to www.massinc.org.

— Kristen Bradley
Keeping all children part of the process: Officials explain No Child Left Behind Act
MetroWest Daily News
Jan. 28, 2003


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