Excerpted from The New York Times, June
States Found to Vary Widely on Education
By TAMAR LEWIN
vary so drastically from state to state that a fourth grader judged proficient
in reading in Mississippi or Tennessee would fall far short of that mark
in Massachusetts and South Carolina, the United States Department of
Education said yesterday in a report that, for the first time, measured
the extent of the differences.
The wide variation raises questions about whether the
federal No Child Left Behind law, President Bush’s signature education
initiative, which is up for renewal this year, has allowed a patchwork
of educational inequities around the country, with no common yardstick
to determine whether schoolchildren are learning enough.
The law requires that all students be brought to proficiency
by 2014 in reading and math and creates sanctions for failure. But in
a bow to states’ rights it lets each state set its own standards
and choose its own tests.
The report provides ammunition for critics who say
that one national standard is needed. “Parents and communities
in too many states are being told not to worry, all is well, when their
students are far behind,” said Michael J. Petrilli, a vice president
of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation who served in the Education Department
during Mr. Bush’s first term.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in a statement, “This
report offers sobering news that serious work remains to ensure that
our schools are teaching students to the highest possible standards.” Still,
in a conference call with reporters, she said it was up to the states,
not the federal government, to raise standards.
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