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McKeon's Response: Close Loopholes, But Don't Open New Ones

Last week, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., decried existing loopholes in the NCLB accountability rules, blaming Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for letting states off the hook.

Now, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., comes to the secretary's defense. More importantly, the senior Republican on the education committee hints he's not committed to several key elements of the Title I discussion draft that he and Chairman Miller released last month.

"Rather than blaming the U.S. secretary of education, I believe our time would be better spent focusing on the future of the law, not its past implementation," Rep. McKeon writes in this online commentary, which was prompted by Rep. Miller's own commentary. "But even more than that, I strongly disagree that the solution to our accountability challenges is to close some loopholes while opening others."

Rep. McKeon says that he believes the Title I draft's proposals to add so-called multiple measures under NCLB accountability would create problems of their own. Allowing states to use test scores on subjects other than reading and math would take away the law's current focus on those core subjects. Adding such tests goes against the public outcry against the amount of testing that NCLB currently requires, he writes. Overall, the new measures would be "mechanisms that could lead us down a slippery slope of complexity and confusion," he says.

Three points:

1.) Ever since the first of the discussion drafts came out Aug. 28, I've wondered how open Rep. Miller and Rep. McKeon would be to changes. Rep. McKeon's essay suggests that he would be happy to ditch the multiple measures.

2.) After making his points about accountability, Rep. McKeon lists his "grave concerns" about access to tutoring and choice. Under the plan, students would be guaranteed such help only if they attend a school that fails to make AYP in almost every subgroup of students. "I cannot lend my support to any bill that significantly diminishes existing options for parents," he writes. "I think we should be doing more to offer meaningful educational choices, not less." So he isn't very enthusiastic about this section of the draft, either.

3.) Two weeks ago, the big issue appeared to be accountability. Last week, it was teachers. Will it be accountability again? Or will something else rise to the surface?

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