Little schools say no to the President

4th July 2003 at 01:00
UNITED STATES

A showdown between the Bush administration and rural America threatens to undermine the White House's efforts to raise standards.

Schools chiefs representing vast swathes of America want exemption from the No child left behind Act, contending the new education law is unworkable in rural areas.

The popular image of America is as the home of teeming metropolises like New York and Los Angeles, but unlike Britain, much of the country is sparsely populated.

Teachers at schools in Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Nebraska, Maine and many other states typically do the work of several of their peers in urban schools, straddling whole science or humanities curricula in lessons.

"It's absolutely necessary because of small student numbers and small school size," explained Wayne Sanstead, schools chief of North Dakota, where more than three-quarters of schools have fewer than 75 pupils.

But new demands that staff be certified in each subject they teach has sparked mounting outcry from local officials, balking at the prospect of dismantling age-old training systems geared towards instilling general, multi-subject expertise, and asking veteran teachers to retrain.

The White House has been deluged with petitions for waivers from states which contend that the reforms are untenable. They fear they may hasten the exodus of their teachers to better-paying city schools. "We can't understand the one-size-fits-all approach; you can't put us all in the same mould," said Mr Sanstead.

Another bone of contention is school choice, mandating low-performing schools to pay for students to transfer to adjoining ones with better test scores. Rural schools are often separated by hundreds of miles of rugged terrain.

Bush's officials gave Alaska, America's northern-most state, some leeway on this part of the legislation last month, after education secretary Rod Paige took a helicopter to trace the 164-mile trip across the Bering Sea some pupils there would have to take to switch schools.

However, officials have offered no relief from the law's requirements for the mainland states so far.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now