Friday, September 30, 2005

The right thing to do

Rare kudos to Secretary Spellings for granting flexibility to schools that have taken in Hurricane evacuees. She's often talked about flexibility but done little to actually give it. It remains to be seen how flexible Spellings and the Ed. Dept will be, and it's hard not to wonder how much of this is fueled by plummeting approval ratings and the fact that NCLB is up for reauthorization in a little over a year. But still, I give credit where credit is due. And this is clearly the right thing to do.

From the Washington Post story:

Under pressure from hurricane-stressed states, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced yesterday that the agency will for one year relax academic accountability standards under the administration's signature education initiative, allowing schools affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita to recoup without facing penalties for poor annual assessments.

The decision marks a significant shift for Spellings, who has said since she assumed office that while she will be flexible in enforcing the No Child Left Behind law, one area of measure is sacrosanct: holding schools accountable for the results of yearly tests. Yesterday's action marks the first time the administration has yielded any ground on this point.

"It's important to note that is not Waiver City," department spokeswoman Susan Aspey said. "No one has gotten a waiver yet, and these schools will have to show that they did not meet the state standards because of this disaster and these displaced students."

Spellings told a House committee that schools in the five "major disaster" states will be eligible to delay obligations under the education act without requesting a waiver under a provision that allows for the impact of a natural disasters. Schools that were greatly damaged or closed would be eligible for this option.

Other schools in these and other states accommodating the estimated 370,000 displaced students would still be required to test those pupils. But they would be permitted to lump their test scores into a separate subcategory. If a school determines that these students' scores will cause it to fall short of the law's requirement that the school is making "adequate yearly progress," it may then ask for a waiver to not count the scores.

"We must not penalize any school of any kind for its commitment to these students," Spelling told legislators.

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