Cate says state meeting requirements of No Child Left Behind

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(Host) Vermont Education Commissioner Richard Cate says the state is doing a good job meeting some of the key requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind Law.”

A number of states are being penalized for failing to meet student assessment and teacher qualification standards but Vermont’s work in both areas has been approved by federal officials.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The law went into place at the beginning of 2002, and for the few first years, federal officials worked with states to meet the guidelines of the legislation.

But now the Bush Administration is taking a different approach – it’s imposing sanctions on states that fail to meet key parts of the law.

One provision calls on states to certify that all teachers be “highly qualified” in their core teaching areas and the law requires that student tests conform with federal standards.

According to a new report, a majority of states have failed to meet these goals. Education commissioner Richard Cate says Vermont isn’t one of the states facing new sanctions:

(Cate) “The letter that we got from the federal education department indicates that they accept our situation and our plan for making improvement over time. Some states got letters that said basically that they have not met the requirements and they were going to have to demonstrate action or pay fines. We’re not in that situation.”

(Kinzel) Cate says Vermont is also in compliance with a regulation that requires that “highly qualified” teachers are assigned to classes with lower income students – these are individuals who qualify for the federal school lunch program.

This is a key provision for federal officials because many of these students often score below the statewide average on many tests.

(Cate) “In Vermont we are almost identical in that regard. So if we say 90% of the low income students are being taught by highly qualified teachers or teachers that meet that definition then that’s the same as their peer group. In some of our cases there’s even higher percentage of teachers that have met the HGT requirements for our low income students than their peer group.”

(Kinzel) Cate says he supports the basic philosophy of No Child Left Behind. He says it’s one that calls for accountability in education. But he thinks the implementation of the law leaves a lot to be desired.

(Cate) “The law has made it difficult because I think it presumes that states and school districts are more alike than they are. The law was really designed to address the issues in New York City and Los Angeles and Chicago and all those big cities. When you try to play that out in Vermont it doesn’t always work real well. But I think there are ways to do it and I think we’ve found that way with the federal education department.”

(Kinzel) The state will be releasing the results of some of this year’s student assessments next week.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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