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Two 'Pioneer' States Might Be Left out of Pilot Project

Last week, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings traveled to St. Paul, Minn., to announce that she would offer up to 10 states the chance to "differentiate accountability" under NCLB. She didn't mention in her speech that Minnesota wouldn't qualify. The state hasn't won the feds' approval for its testing system—one of four criteria participating states must meet.

In her speech, though, Spellings said she would give preference to states that have been "pioneers for reform." She lauded Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, and South Dakota for their accountability systems and Massachusetts for its standards.

But two of those states—Louisiana and South Dakota—haven't received the Department of Education's "full approval" for their testing systems, according to decision letters posted on the department's Web site. Both states have lists of things to fix before winning the feds' approval. (See Louisiana's list in a June 29 letter and South Dakota's list in a July 13 letter.)

Chad Colby, an Education Department spokesman, told me in an e-mail today these states could apply for the new pilot project. But they wouldn't be allowed to implement any plan until the department okays their testing system.

Colby is checking on the number of states that the department has given "full approval." I counted 15 states in that category, and another 16 in "approved with recommendations."

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