- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Dont move the goalposts of school accountability

Accountability is one of the keys to improving our nations education system. Accountability is so important that President George W. Bush has made it one of the three cornerstones of his education reform package along with flexibility and parental empowerment.

House Education Committee Chairman John Boehner, who wrote in these pages yesterday, is wrong to say we need more federally mandated testing to know how our children are doing in school ("Empower parents and kids," May 22). We have a testing regime in place, which is just now coming on line.

In 1994, Congress passed the Improving America´s Schools Act, which required a federal accountability system of tests given once within each of three grade spans: 3 to 5, 6 to 9 and 10 to 12. The deadline for states to implement these provisions is the just-ending 2000-01 school year, but so far only half of the 50 states have been able to implement a testing plan or receive conditional approval.

It is estimated that states are currently spending $448 million a year on accountability through testing. It can be assumed that a good portion of that expense is being made to comply with or get ready for the 1994 federal accountability requirements. Now is the time to see how this investment has paid off and look at the different models states have developed, allowing states to build on those that are successful. The federal government is establishing a baseline for accountability. We need to see the effects of this system before the goalposts are moved.

Following this plan through does not take away from the president´s vision for education reform. Instead, it will allow us to determine where we need to go in using assessments to further academic achievement. States and local districts still would be able to go beyond the current standards if they believe it would be beneficial, as many states have already done. In Georgia and South Carolina, students are tested before the third grade to help identify learning disabilities. In Tennessee, students must pass end-of-course exams to graduate from high school. Students in Michigan are tested in five subjects reading, math, writing, social studies and science in the 11th grade. Rather than taking an accountability system that may be working in one state and applying it to the whole country, the federal government should recognize the unique needs and approaches of each state.

We should embrace the new accountability systems that states have worked to develop over the past six years. Let´s give states the ability to be creative and at the same time study the impact the current standards are having on student achievement. Working together, we can develop an education system that truly will leave no child behind.


PETE HOEKSTRA

Chairman

Select Education Committee

House Education and the Workforce Committee

Washington

Glendening gun gaff, part two

Gov. Parris N. Glendenings veto of the Maryland gun safety school curriculum and his comments justifying the veto betray the bankruptcy of the liberal mania against guns ("Gun safety curriculum vetoed by Glendening," May 18).

The governor excoriates the "appearance of the state encouraging young people to handle weapons" (which, by the way, is exactly what the U.S. military, including the Maryland National Guard, does with teen-age recruits).

It is exactly because the legislation would encourage youthful familiarity with guns that the governor should have signed the bill.

I was familiar with guns by the time I was physically capable of handling one. My father, a farm boy to whom using guns was second nature, taught me how to shoot his .22 semiautomatic pistol when I was in early grade school. He gave me a .22 rifle for my 10th or 11th birthday and sent me to a summer camp with a National Rifle Association-sanctioned rifle program. We joined both the NRA and the Izaak Walton League to have access to safe, supervised shooting ranges.

At age 14, I joined the North-South Skirmish Association, which competes with Civil War muzzleloaders of all descriptions. My father bought me a Civil War rifle-musket.

While I was growing up, I had friends whose fathers kept guns but forbade their sons access to them. My friends sneaked the things out anyway and used them without proper training. One friend, who knew where his father kept the key to a .38 semiautomatic pistol, took it out after school one day, dropped the loaded magazine out of it, then pointed it into my stomach and pulled the trigger. He did not realize, as did I, that it was still possible for a cartridge to be in the chamber. Luckily for me, there wasn´t.

I have made it to age 55, with a collection of two dozen guns (all kept locked up behind a steel-clad door), and have managed never to have shot anyone, purposefully or accidentally. I have never hunted but still enjoy target shooting and competition, especially with muzzleloaders.

Mr. Glendening believes that, for young people, familiarity with guns breeds dangerous or even threatening behavior. I say it breeds respect for and knowledge of safe gun use.


ROSS KIMMEL

Arnold, Md.

The votes the parties rejected ….

Its funny to think that New Mexico Republican Chairman John Denhahl has more in common with Gloria Steinem than he does with any Libertarian ("GOP will court its libertarian wing," May 21). Mr. Denhahl suggests "that a vote for [former Libertarian presidential candidate Harry] Browne was a vote for [former Democratic presidential candidate Al] Gore," much as Ms. Steinem conversely suggested before the presidential election that a vote for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader would be a vote for George W. Bush. What Mr. Denhahl and Ms. Steinem fail to recognize is that there are many, many Americans who strongly support political choice at the polls. These are the Americans who have grown tired of the politically juvenile, "lesser-of-two-evils" arguments that so many plutocrats have relied on for decades.

If Mr. Denhahl is truly threatened by Libertarians, perhaps he should consider working with Ms. Steinem on enacting more restrictive ballot access requirements for grass-roots political parties. This way, both sides could get what they truly want at the polls: fewer choices.


PAUL MARSDEN

Garden Grove, Calif.




During the last election, my Democratic and Republican friends both told me that I was "wasting" my vote by voting Libertarian. I disagreed with them, and they thought me a fool. Well, now it seems that the mighty Republicans have decided that my lil´ ol´ vote does count, and they are willing to make changes in their party to prove it ("GOP will court its libertarian wing," May 21"). I fear their strategy may be way too little and a bit too late.

Simply acting like a Libertarian will not cut it. To earn a vote from me and from those of my ilk, a candidate must be a Libertarian and believe in the principles of the party. Libertarians depend on elected officials to use the Constitution as the yardstick for how to run the government. There is no better guide for this nation than the Constitution. Our nation is a mess because elected officials cast votes based on their personal beliefs or for the benefit of their parties. Libertarians aren´t happy with the mess.

Maybe the so-called libertarian Republicans should sketch out a new strategy: dropping the Republican Party and becoming Libertarians. Otherwise, they should grow accustomed to losing elections at the hands of my fellow Libertarians.


M. CRAIG COLE

Lilburn, Ga.


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