Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Spellings Report: Hurricane Katrina And NCLB

Secretary Margaret Spellings of the U.S. Department of Education fielded a few questions at The White House last Tuesday. The queries were about Hurricane Katrina's impact on education. This exchange grabbed my attention:
Kevin, from Big Lake, Minnesota writes:

You stated on NPR on 9-4-05 [Ed's note: read it here.] that all provisions of NCLB will apply to the children affected by the hurricane. This implies that, if a school admits a number of these children, and they fail to perform adequately in testing, the school could be stigmatzed and ultimately suffer adverse consequences for taking them in. It seems unusually perverse to force schools to decide whether they should do the right thing for the Katrina children and risk their own students' future, or protect their own students by refusing to serve these traumatized children.

Margaret Spellings:

Hi Kevin, thanks for your question. One of our highest priorities is ensuring that students affected by the hurricane are back in school as soon as possible. And I am pleased that states and school districts across the country are already taking steps to address the needs of students who have been left homeless. As these most immediate needs are met, we will be working closely with state and local officials in the coming days to discuss the implications for No Child Left Behind state testing and accountability requirements, and on a case-by-case basis, we will be flexible with certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act as they emerge. I am committed to implementing No Child Left Behind in a sensible way and will do so in this case, as well.

No Child Left Behind represents the commitment of this nation to ensure that all students get a quality education, and honoring this commitment is one of the most important things we can do for the schoolchildren affected by this disaster. We cannot begin to express our appreciation to the schools that are accepting children affected by the hurricane Katrina and we are working to ensure that these schools will have the resources necessary to ensure that all children that come in their doors receive a quality education.
We know which of those "certain provisions" of NCLB that the Secretary will consider "on a case-by-case-basis" for a waiver. As stated in a press release from her department: (emphasis added)

On a case-specific basis, the Department will relax certain reporting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act for affected states.
So there you have it. As of now, schools that are impacted by large numbers of newly-enrolled evacuees will continue to be held "accountable" regarding test scores, as directed by NCLB. Only those sections that have to do with reporting are subject to a waiver.

In reality, I think that due to Realpolitik the Department of Education will soon find itself having to be "flexible" regarding enforcement of those provisions of NCLB that require ever-higher percentages of students whose test results demonstrate "proficiency" in reading, math, (and soon) science.

Look for some type of waiver.

Update: (09/13/05) Number 2 Pencil has much more.
See the latest edition of The Carnival of Education, guest hosted by What It's Like on the Inside, right here.

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