Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings supports Parent Expectations

This article by Clarence Page briefly discusses US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings:

Detroit News: Bush schools chief speaks up for parents (05/30/07)

It discusses a controversary brewing over the $1 billion per year "Reading First" program. There are allegations that some of the materials selected for use in the program (before Spellings took over) provided personal gain to those making the decisions.

I'm not familiar with those issues, but I was impressed with the outcomes as described by Page:

The irony of the Reading First controversy says a lot about other clashes in the Bush Education Department. Despite the allegations, reading scores for students in the program have dramatically improved.

The percentage of first-graders who met or exceeded proficiency standards on reading fluency grew from 43 per cent to 57 percent in a study of the years 2004 to 2006, and third-graders who improved grew from 35 percent to 43 percent. A scandalized program may actually have produced encouraging progress for students.

I was also impressed with these quotes attributed to Spellings:

But, as she showed in our interview and on "The Daily Show," she speaks up forcefully for a large group that too often feels shortchanged in school debates: the parents.

I laid on her my biggest complaint about standardized tests: Doesn't every child learn differently?

"Yes, but," she said, "I think sometimes that's used as an excuse for masking underachievement."

Then she got personal: "I'll tell you what, Clarence. ... I've yet to meet a parent who didn't want their kid to be reading at anything less than grade level -- this year! Not in 2014 (the goal year set by the administration for closing that academic achievement gaps). This year! And that's not an unreasonable expectation for parents to have of their schools and their kids."

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