Sunday, May 05, 2002

Education reform input sought

Public can provide feedback on law

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — Tristate parents and educators will be the first in the nation Monday night to give feedback on how schools will change under President Bush's sweeping education reform act.

        The U.S. Department of Education is hosting its first regional public hearing here all day Monday to solicit in put on the proposed rules for standards and assessments under the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

        The meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Airport Holiday Inn, 1717 Airport Exhcange Blvd, Erlanger, is one of five regional meetings on the new education law, signed in January by President Bush. Meetings are also scheduled for Atlanta, San Diego, Little Rock, Ark., and New York City.

        The meetings are part of Education Secretary Rod Paige's efforts to work with state and local leaders on implementing the education reform law.

        “This is our effort to reach out to the public and educate them on what these rules mean and what they will tell parents about their students' achievement,” said Melinda Malico, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education. “And also to get public input on these rules. The public comments will definitely have an impact on the (finalized) law.”

        The new draft rules were developed by a panel of 24 experts — representing parents, educators and school administrators — during a two-week period. The final rules will be ready in July.

        Fred Bassett, superintendent of Beechwood Independent Schools in Kenton County, said one of his biggest concerns is how local school districts will comply with the new federal law.

        “What kind of effect is that going to have on us when they implement the federal testing pro gram on top of the (Kentucky statewide) CATS testing program? Will any part of the CATS testing program qualify to meet the federal guidelines or do we have to add completely new tests?” Mr. Bassett said. “That's one of the big questions that everybody is concerned about.”

        Federal education officials also will use Monday's meeting as a chance to educate the public about the need for challenging content standards and high-quality assess ments in K-12 education, Ms. Malico said.

        Officials from the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, plan to attend the regional meetings.

        “Teachers and educators must be involved in all aspects of a state's accountability system,” NEA president Bob Chase said. “We are the professionals directly involved in this reform effort — and we are eyeball to eyeball with students every day. Our input is necessary for the creation of a successful assessment and accountability system.”

        During the morning part of the hearing, speakers will discuss topics including standards and assessments and using data for decision-making. The public comment period is from 1-5 p.m.


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