Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Educators meet with government

Teachers voice concerns at first of five meetings

By Earnest Winston, ewinston@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — Luring high-quality teachers, concerns about student assessments and providing states flexibility to launch a new federal education law were among issues raised Monday at a regional meeting on national education reform.

        U.S. Department of Education officials heard from about two dozen teachers and educators at the Airport Holiday Inn during the first of five regional meetings.

        They are being held to obtain public feedback on proposed rules for standards, assessments and academic progress under the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

        Also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law was signed in January by President Bush.

        Details of the proposed regulations remain a work in progress. Federal officials said Monday the education reform gives states and school districts more flexibility and less federal red tape.

        But states and school districts will be required to develop accountability systems under the new law, which calls for having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Additionally, parents will have access to more information about how well their local schools are performing.

        Joyce Valerius, a supplemental services teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools, said she is encouraged by the part of the law that calls for higher standards for teachers.

        However, she said, raising the standards for teachers is not enough if the profession wants to attract the best and brightest minds.

        She said the community needs to encourage high school students to became teachers, and administrators should provide better support for teachers. And teachers, she said, should spend less time in meetings and worrying about paperwork.

        Gary Kovach, a social studies teacher in Parma, Ohio, said the new law “should focus on multiple assessments, not just one test per year. ... Educators feel that if you give just one exam to students, it sets them up for failure. They need assessments over the entire year so we can effectively gauge how they perform in various areas, not just on a single snapshot.”

        Kevin M. Noland, deputy commissioner and general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Education, said for the most part, Kentucky is already doing what the new federal law requires.

        “But there are a few remaining issues that are challenges for Kentucky, and over the next several months we're trying to work those out,” said Mr. Noland.

        Mr. Noland asked that federal officials keep an open mind and that states be given flexibility while implementing the new law, which is expected to be ready in July. A former Louisville teacher, however, said she hopes flexibility doesn't mean “anything goes.”

        Attendees also said the proposed law should do more to promote professional development of educators and address students with special needs.


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