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Education chief vows leeway on No Child Left Behind rules

By Associated Press
Published April 8, 2005

MOUNT VERNON, Va. - Education Secretary Margaret Spellings came into her job promising to deal with horror stories from states about the No Child Left Behind law. Now state leaders say she appears to be delivering on the promise - with a catch.

Spellings pledged Thursday to take a more sensible approach to enforcing the law, starting with allowing many more children with disabilities to be held to different academic standards. The flexibility isn't open to all states, only to those that prove they are committed to President Bush's education law, mainly by raising test scores.

"States that understand this new way of doing things will be gratified," Spellings said.

"It makes sense, plain and simple," she said. "Others looking for loopholes to simply take the federal funds, ignore the intent of the law and have minimal results to show for their millions of dollars in federal funds will think otherwise and be disappointed."

Spellings said she will favor states that don't challenge principal points of the law - yearly testing of students in reading and math in grades three to eight and public reporting of scores for all major groups of students. She said she wants proof that states are raising achievement.

She said she's inclined to work with states that do even more than the law requires, including the yearly high school testing that Bush wants in federal law but Congress hasn't endorsed.

Overall, Spellings is out to garner support from state leaders who have grown restless over Bush's education law, yet do it without eroding high expectations for all children.

Some state leaders say the law sets unreasonable and rigid standards for many children. Spellings has shown she has heard those concerns, said David Driscoll, education commissioner in Massachusetts and president of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

"She's not backing off the standards, but she's willing to listen and provide flexibility where it makes sense," Driscoll said.

[Last modified April 8, 2005, 00:34:10]

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