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Posted at 1:57 PM ET, 11/ 4/2010

Margaret Spellings: The last NCLB defender?

By Valerie Strauss

These days it’s hard to find a strong supporter of No Child Left Behind.

Rep. John Kline, the Republican in line to take over the education committee in the House, thinks the law that ushered in a destructive era of high-stakes testing and phony accountability is a mess. He wants to rewrite it.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has been a big supporter, has nevertheless labeled as "utopian" the 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient on science, math and reading tests.

Diane Ravitch, an education historian who initially supported NCLB, wrote a scathing critique of it in her bestselling book The Death and Life of the Great American School System.

Enter Margaret Spellings, former secretary of education and a key architect of No Child Left Behind. She now runs Margaret Spellings and Company, a public policy and strategic consulting firm.

In an interview with my colleague Jay Mathews, Spellings said that NCLB is “a good strong law” with “good strong deadlines.” It should stay on the books as is, she told Jay, because there is not a favorable political climate at the moment to rewrite it.

The interview is one of a series of videotaped discussions that Jay is having with leaders about education, including D.C. Mayor Elect Vincent Gray. You can find them on the Washington Post’s education page.

By “good strong deadlines” Spellings includes the 2014 deadline. Nobody but perhaps Margaret Spellings thinks that that is possible, given the fact that the annual yearly progress mechanism of NCLB has assessed thousands of school as failing.

Spellings never did see the damage that NCLB was doing to schools, but you would think that by now the weight of the evidence would have forced her to see reality.

It must be nice living in a dream world.

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By Valerie Strauss  | November 4, 2010; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  No Child Left Behind  | Tags:  arne duncan, diane ravitch, education secretary arne duncan, jay mathews, margaret spellings, nclb, no child left behind, vincent gray  
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Spellings creates misinformation about NCLB for cover and to save face. As one of the architects of NCLB, Spellings defends her profit-making machine created through education policy. She fails to disclose how individuals and institutions such as the Texas Education Agency and the UT-System receive royalties and have profited on cooked data and non-research based programs like Reading First. Taxpayers have spent billions on canned curriculum with matching low-quality non-valid testing and at the same time students have not made gains in reading comprehension. NCLB and Reading First must be abolished.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | November 4, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what Ms. Spellings thinks. What does Roderick Paige think of NCLB?

Posted by: edlharris | November 4, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

The striking thing is that in the nine years of NCLB history we've gone from the "Soft bigotry of low expectations" with a committment to teach all kids how to read to a hard bigotry of viewing this commitment "utopian" and "unrealistic."

And the astounding thing is that this is by a Democratic administration that is continuing to impose an impossible statistical formula which will have every school in the nation labeled as "failing."

Meanwhile, the Standards and Standardized Tests ideology has provided no information whatsoever that illuminates the instruction that a child has received or should best receive in the future.

President Bush asked, "What is our children learning?" That's a reasonable question, however phrased. NCLB has rather reduced "proficiency" to an arbitrarily-set cut score on an ungrounded statistical scale.

What is our leaders thinking?

Posted by: DickSchutz | November 5, 2010 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Rod Paige? He doesn't think. He never did. He was a front man for all the business interests that profit from NCLB. He can't think his way out of a paper bag.

Posted by: aed3 | November 5, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

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