- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Democrats in Congress are citing a new report on the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act as evidence that President Bush has “failed our nation’s schools.”

Many states are falling short of the goals prescribed by the 2001 law, said the report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan congressional watchdog agency. The report sent to congressional education committee leaders last week said the Education Department has failed to give adequate guidance to help states comply with the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

“The GAO’s findings show it’s no wonder that the Bush administration is leaving almost 5 million children behind in our schools,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He called the report “further proof that this administration has failed our nation’s schools.”

Rep. George Miller of California, ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said the GAO found that 15 states still do not comply with 1994 federal requirements to develop educational standards and assessment systems.

“The GAO is sufficiently concerned that it specifically urges the [Education] Department to develop a written plan and internal deadlines in order to increase the likelihood that it will be able to fulfill its responsibilities in helping all states meet upcoming NCLB deadlines,” Mr. Miller said.

States are not uniformly implementing the learning achievement requirements of NCLB, and just 28 states had fully approved plans “without conditions” by July 31, the GAO report said.

States will have “difficulty” achieving the law’s goals of 100 percent reading and math proficiency at each grade level by 2014 because the Education Department “has not established a written plan that clearly identifies the steps required, interim goals, review schedules and timelines,” the GAO said in the 56-page report.

The report caught some congressional leaders by surprise. David Schnittger, communications director of the House education panel, said it was not informed that the GAO had started a yearlong study of state implementation of NCLB in July 2003.

“Our committee staff saw the report itself for the first time at the end of last week, as it was being released,” Mr. Schnittger said.

Eugene W. Hickok, deputy secretary of education, said in a written response included in the GAO report that the department “is well-underway in implementing such a plan.”

Mr. Hickok said states have made huge efforts since NCLB was enacted.

“Prior to this law, many states had no statewide system of accountability. Starting from scratch in many cases, states had to craft, or in some cases recraft, their systems within the parameters set out in the law, and secure the support of their stakeholders,” he wrote.

“It is an unprecedented accomplishment that, a year and a half after [NCLB] was enacted, all states had submitted accountability plans and used those plans to hold their schools and districts accountable for the achievement of their students during the 2002-03 school year. This was a historic milestone for our nation and education reform,” Mr. Hickok said.

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