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Secretary Spellings Announces More Workable, "Common Sense" Approach To Implement No Child Left Behind Law

May 26, 2006

Secretary Spellings Announces More Workable, "Common Sense" Approach To Implement No Child Left Behind Law

U.S. Department of Education April 7th, 2005 - Secretary Spellings Announces More Workable, "Common Sense" Approach To Implement No Child Left Behind Law

Under a new approach to implementing the "No Child Left Behind" law, states will have additional alternatives and flexibility if they can show they are raising student achievement and closing the achievement gap, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced today.  Secretary Spellings made the announcement during a meeting with the nation's state education chiefs and other education leaders at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate near Washington, D.C.

Secretary Spellings said the new guidelines, "Raising Achievement: A New Path for No Child Left Behind", are a comprehensive approach to implementing the law and she reiterated that "the bright lines of the statute" -- such as annual testing to determine student achievement, reporting results by student subgroups and highly qualified teachers -- are not up for negotiation.

"We have learned a lot over the last three years as our infant law has matured, and these past three years have helped us be smarter about how this law is working in the schools," Secretary Spellings said.  "These new guidelines show us the way forward given what we've learned.  They focus on results for all students, the fundamental mission of the "No Child Left Behind Act."

"States that show results and follow the principles of 'No Child Left Behind' will be eligible for new tools to help them meet the law's goals of getting every child to grade level by 2013-14.  It's a shared responsibility.

"Think of this new policy as an equation:  the principles of the law, such as annual testing and reporting of subgroup data, plus student achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap, plus overall sound state education policies, equals a new, common sense approach to implementation of 'No Child Left Behind.'

"In other words, it is the results that truly matter, not the bureaucratic way that you get there.  That's just common sense, sometimes lost in the halls of the government."

"Raising Achievement: A New Path" includes the four key principles of "No Child Left Behind":

  • Ensuring students are learning: Raising overall achievement and closing the achievement gap;
  • Making the school system accountable:  Including all students in all schools and districts in the state; ensuring all students are part of a state's accountability system and are tested in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school by the 2005-06 school year;providing data on student achievement by subgroup;
  • Ensuring information is accessible and parents have options: Informing parents in a timely manner about the quality of their child's school and their school choice options, identifying schools and districts that need to improve, developing a dynamic list of after-school tutors, encouraging public school choice and the creation of charter schools and creating easily accessible and understandable school and district report cards
  • Improving teacher quality: Providing parents and the public with accurate information on the quality of their local teaching force, implementing a rigorous system for ensuring teachers are highly qualified and making aggressive efforts to ensure all children are taught by highly qualified teachers.

"This is a comprehensive approach to the implementation of this law," Secretary Spellings said.  "States seeking additional flexibility will get credit for the work they have done to reform their education systems as a whole.
"States that understand this new way of doing things will be gratified.  It makes sense, plain and simple.  Others looking for excuses to simply take the federal funds, ignore the intent of the law and have minimal results to show for their millions upon millions in federal funds will think otherwise and be disappointed."

Secretary Spellings announced that the first example of this "workable, sensible approach" would be to apply the latest scientific research and allow states to use modified assessments for their students with persistent academic disabilities who need more time and instruction to make substantial progress toward grade-level achievement.  These scores will be limited to 2 percent of all students for accountability purposes; this is a separate policy from the current regulation that allows up to 1 percent of all students being tested (those with the most significant cognitive disabilities) to take an alternate assessment.

"This new approach recognizes that these children should not all be treated alike.  By relying on the most current and accurate information on how children learn and how to best serve their academic needs, this new policy focuses on children.  They continue to be included in the accountability system because we know that otherwise, they risk being ignored, as was often the case before 'No Child Left Behind.'"

Secretary Spellings also announced that she was directing an additional $14 million in immediate support for these students and that the Department would provide states with a comprehensive tool kit to help them identify and assess students with disabilities.

"It's you -- the educators out in the states -- who are closing the achievement gap.  You're demanding more and getting more.  You're refusing to accept old excuses for poor performance.  Thanks to your leadership, we are seeing significant educational improvement on a national scale.  And as we continue to watch this law grow and mature, we will address other concerns raised by educators -- again, as long as the children are learning."

"No Child Left Behind" is the bipartisan landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap among groups of students, offering more flexibility to states, giving parents more options and teaching students based on what works. Under the law's strong accountability provisions, states must describe how they will close the achievement gap and make sure all students, including those with disabilities, achieve academically.

More information about this announcement, including the Secretary's speech and fact sheets on the new policy and the "No Child Left Behind Act" is available at

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