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Time May Be Right for Big Changes in Federal Policy

In my story about one of the many reports pegged to the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, I quote two experts suggesting that that federal policy is not about to undergo dramatic changes in the next few years.

Congress only makes dramatic shifts infrequently and the time probably isn't right, Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy told me. Kati Haycock of the Education Trust predicted that changes to NCLB would be "evolutionary, rather than revolutionary."

That may end up being correct. But one VIP may be out to prove them wrong.

Yesterday at an event by the authors of "Democracy at Risk," Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said: "This is exactly the right time to pause at the end of this administration and at the beginning of the next administration and rethink" the federal role in K-12 schools.

And that effort has to happen at the presidential level, Miller added. Judging from the lack of a sustained or serious debate during the current campaign, it may be hard to get the next resident of the Oval Office to pay attention to the debate.

The future federal role will include many of the ingredients of NCLB, he said. He called funding, accountability, and opportunity "the backbone" of the federal role.

And funding is especially important to Miller. "If that conversation isn't had first and satisfactorily revolved, I'm not going to waste my time," he said.

P.S. Much of the April 23, 2008, issue of Education Week is dedicated to the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk. Don't miss Howard Gardner's commentary about why NCLB and other standardized approaches won't work in the three distinct types of school districts across the United States—or satisfy these three Jesses.

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