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Paige Gives Tentative OK to Nebraska

Nebraska's student testing system works
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige had some encouraging news for Nebraska's educational community when he visited the state Monday.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act is flexible, Paige said. That means Nebraska's unique school report card system might be able to meet the testing requirements of the federal law, which goes into effect in the 2005-2006 school year.
Under that law, states must test students annually in grades three through eight on reading and math in an effort to guarantee quality education by pushing schools to improve the performance of their students on those tests.

Under the Nebraska system, students in grades four, eight and 11 are now tested in reading and math. The Nebraska system allows local input into the testing rather than using a single statewide test, as is the case in most other states.

Nebraska education officials rightly argue that the state's system allows greater local control and flexibility, which generates energy and innovation in the classroom.

In its first two years, it also has been proved to work. School report cards have found a performance range from exemplary to unacceptable, and the pressure to improve for schools on the low end of the scale has come from the communities in which the schools are located, as it should be.

There are still some glitches to be worked out in the system to guarantee comparability between districts, particularly in the mathematics tests. But, on the whole, Nebraska's plan appears to be working and to fit well into the state's "local control" political philosophy.

Paige emphasized that the No Child Left Behind Act must be upheld. So it is likely Nebraska's system will have to be altered to meet the federal annual testing requirements. That would mean testing children in grades three, six and seven in addition to the three grades now being tested here.

But if that testing is done under the same basic system that Nebraskans have constructed for Nebraskans, adding the additional grades would appear to be a wise compromise to comply with the federal requirements, even if some state officials think it is unnecessary.

In his remarks, Paige said the "differences are not really as wide as some people thought" and that the federal government wants to partner with states to help them succeed. Here's hoping that the statements were more than just rhetoric and that an agreement preserving Nebraska's system and meeting the federal law can eventually be reached.

— editorial
Nebraska's student testing system works
Lincoln Journal Star
April 1, 2003


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