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Critics Re-Evaluate Education Reform Act After One Year

Critics Re-Evaluate Education Reform Act After One Year
By Charles Dervarics

The one-year anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act brought its share of praise and criticism this month as organizations from the White House to grass-roots groups disagreed on the law’s breadth and effectiveness.

A major rewriting of federal K-12 law, the act requires schools to make annual yearly progress or face major sanctions. The law also contains new programs to promote teacher development and education that involve colleges and universities.

“We can say that the work of reform is well begun,” President Bush said at a ceremony marking the law’s first anniversary. “Accountability for results is now the law of the land,” he said, as schools will be judged on their annual progress across a common benchmark.

But critics say the program deserves at best an “incomplete,” along with more money to promote quality.

Of particular concern to states is the law’s requirement for “annual yearly progress.” Schools that fail to make progress face major sanctions, and signs point to a system that will judge schools on the basis of only one test, says Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association.

As a result, some states predict that most of their public schools will fail — even those that can report progress through other means. “The law, as it stands, now, judges students and schools by a single number,” Weaver says.

In addition, the Bush administration has failed to provide the $18.5 billion originally outlined in the law for the Title I program. In 2004, the administration will propose only $12.3 billion.

But supporters say that funding alone may not dictate success. “We must spend money on what works,” President Bush says. “And we must be sure we continue to insist upon results for the money we spend.”

So far, five states have gained approval for accountability plans they will use to help judge school success with the act. Those five states — Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Colorado and Indiana — had representatives at the White House ceremony.

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