Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Education Department Promises Changes for No Child Left Behind & NIH Leaders Say Stem Cell Policy Limits Science

Public Agenda Alert -- April 7, 2005
* Education Department Promises Changes for No Child Left Behind
* Behind the Headlines: NIH Leaders Say Stem Cell Policy Limits Science
* Education Department Promises Changes for No Child Left Behind
At a meeting with state school officials today,
the U.S. Education Department announced changes
in how it will implement the No Child Left Behind
Act. States that the federal government believes
are making progress toward the NCLB goals may be
allowed more flexibility in implementing the law.
Also, the number of special education students
allowed to take alternative assessments, instead of
the standard statewide test, will be increased
to 2 percent. Many state and local officials have
criticized No Child Left Behind as underfunded
and too focused on testing.
For more than a decade, Public Agenda has conducted
extensive research on attitudes on public schools,
including standards and accountability.
In our 2003 survey of superintendents
and principals, "Rolling Up Their Sleeves," we found
the vast majority surveyed believe that the era
of testing and accountability is here to stay.
But many administrators were unhappy with some of the specifics
of No Child Left Behind. Nine in 10 called the law
an "unfunded mandate" and most said the law "will
require many adjustments before it can work."
Federal and state mandates are a major concern for school
leaders, with nine in 10 saying their district has
see an "enormous increase" in mandates without getting
the resources to cope with them. Most administrators
say their biggest problems are politics and bureaucracy,
and they want more autonomy over their own schools.
For the general public, Americans broadly favor testing
to measure academic performance, as long as it's not
the only benchmark. For instance, most Americans
(84 percent) say standardized tests should be used to
identify students who need extra help, but far fewer
(55 percent) say the scores should decide whether a
student gets promoted or graduates.
While most Americans have heard of the No Child Left
Behind Act, surveys find nearly seven in 10 say they
don't know enough to form an opinion. A double-digit
"don’t know" response is considered by survey researchers
to be a classic warning sign that an issue may not be
well understood and public attitudes may not be stable.
Even so, a majority of Americans say the law will
improve education. Furthermore, three-quarters of
voters say schools will need more money to implement
the act and that the federal government should be
responsible for providing additional funding. Since
very few of the general public has firsthand experience
with how the required measures would actually work in
the nation's schools, poll results on this topic should
be reported with caution.
Read the Associated Press article:
Read the Department of Education statement:
Read our Red Flags on Education:
Download "Rolling Up Their Sleeves: Superintendents
and Principals Talk About What's Needed to Fix Public Schools":
Download "Where We Are Now: 12 Things You Need to Know
About Public Opinion and Public Schools":
* Behind the Headlines: NIH Leaders Say Stem Cell Policy Limits Science
Senior officials of the National Institutes of Health told
a Senate committee that current rules on stem cell research
are "cumbersome and expensive" and that the NIH "has ceded
leadership in this field." While scientists and activists
debate fiercely over the merits and ethical implications of
stem cell research, public opinion surveys show many signs
of uncertainty. Find out more in our Behind the Headlines blog:
Other topics covered Behind the Headlines this week
include the debate over renewal of the Patriot Act and a
report on the economic and educational gap between blacks and whites.
Public Agenda
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