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Bipartisan Study Assails No Child Left Behind Act

A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers that studied the effectiveness of President Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative assailed it today as a flawed, convoluted and unconstitutional education reform effort that had usurped state and local control of public schools.

While the report, based on hearings in several cities, praised the legislation's goal of ending the gap in scholastic achievement between white and minority students, most of its 77 pages was devoted to a detailed inventory and discussion of the initiative's flaws.

It found that the law undermined other school improvement efforts already under way in many states, and it said that the law's accountability system, which punishes schools whose students fail to improve steadily on standardized tests, relied on the wrong indicators.

"Under N.C.L.B., the federal government's role has become excessively intrusive in the day-to-day operations of public education," the National Conference of State Legislatures said in its panel's report. "The task force does not believe that N.C.L.B. is constitutional."

Several educational experts said the task force had accurately captured the views of thousands of state lawmakers and local educators. If so, then the Bush administration may face a growing chorus of challenges to the law and to the Department of Education's implementation of it over the coming months.

Nine state legislatures are currently considering various challenges to the law, and the Utah Senate is poised to vote on a bill already passed by its House that would require Utah education officials to give higher priority to state education laws than to the federal law.

Several business and other groups that strongly support the federal No Child Left Behind legislation took issue with the report, saying that the report's authors had overstated the quality of the state programs that they said the federal government had hampered.

In preparing their report, task force members worked for 10 months and held a series of public hearings in Washington, Chicago, Salt Lake City, New York, Santa Fe and Portland. The panel also met for deliberations in Savannah, Ga.

"They went out and heard lots of things from different people around the country, and this report reflects the breadth and depth of what they heard," said Patricia Sullivan, director of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy, who attended hearings in two cities.

An assistant secretary of education, Ray Simon, met with members of the task force in Washington today to discuss the report.

"The department will continue to work with every state to address their concerns and make this law work for their children," the Education Department said in a statement. "But the report could be interpreted as wanting to reverse the progress we've made."

It added, "No Child Left Behind is bringing new hope and new opportunity to families throughout America, and we will not reverse course."

— Sam Dillon
New York Times
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html?tntget=2005/02/23/education/23cnd-child.html&tntemail1


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