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Flexibility for Champion Schools Act

Location: Washington, DC

FLEXIBILITY FOR CHAMPION SCHOOLS ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 26, 2005)


Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer the Flexibility for Champion Schools Act (H.R. 1821).
Mr. Speaker, on January 8, 2002, the President signed the No Child Left Behind Act, commonly referred to as N-C-L-B. I was fortunate enough to have served on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which considered the details of this domestic policy proposal put forth by the President.

The goals of N-C-L-B were and are laudable. According to the Department of Education, the No Child Left Behind Act gives our schools historic education reform based on stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, encourages proven educational methods, and creates more choices for parents.

However, one of the major tenants of N-C-L-B, its FLEXIBILITY to treat different states fairly while maintaining the goals of the underlying legislation; has not been a priority for the Department. A law that was originally intended to react like a rubber-band, to bend but not break, has unfortunately been implemented rigidly and is intolerant of states like Virginia, who had previously administered high testing and accountability standards.

Mr. Speaker, with any new law, especially one as sweeping as N-C-L-B, some hurdles will have to be overcome. To jump through these hurdles, my colleagues and I have attempted to work with the Department to resolve some of these problems. After meeting with some superintendents in my district, we began a dialogue to work through issues that were specific to states like Virginia, which already had high standards in place.

We recently learned of the Secretary's intent to "take into account each state's unique situation" to implement the law. Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Education proposed a series of waivers that would allow N-C-L-B's goals to mesh with the state's already high standards. Unfortunately, not less than a week after the Secretary's promises of flexibility, the Department rejected the first request for flexibility-one to waive certain assessments of limited English proficiency students in grades K-1 in reading and writing. Mr. Speaker, these are non-English speakers who are 5 years old. I do not believe this demonstrates the flexibility intended by members who supported N-C-L-B.

Without this flexibility, I believe the law is inefficient and duplicative for parents, teachers, students, and state education officers. So we have reached this point where N-C-L-B needs to have a mechanism to recognize the role of certain states in providing accountability. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.

Mr. Speaker, we have stood by too long waiting for this flexibility. Our bill does not "water down" N-L-C-B provisions, or its intent. If certain states do not have strong accountability standards, then N-L-C-B is directed at them. But when we have schools in Virginia passing one standard but failing another, sometimes based solely on the results of one student from one particular subgroup, we need to act.

To address these problems, I offer with my colleagues, Representatives JoAnn Davis, Virgil Goode, Jim Moran, Thelma Drake and Rick Boucher, the Flexibility for Champion Schools Act.

The legislation provides that a State which meets certain requirements shall be granted a waiver from the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provisions of No Child Left Behind.

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