State could gain flexibility

GREENVILLE, S.C. --- Education officials are hoping South Carolina will be one of 10 states that will get some relief from the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.


Currently, states have to treat all schools that don't show adequate yearly progress the same. Schools fail if just one group of pupils flunks one subject. But not all schools that fail to meet the state's rigorous standards are the same, state Education Department officials say.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said last week that her department would allow some states to spend more money on those schools that need the most help.

"One thing we know for sure is that we must take dramatic action to improve our lowest-performing schools," Ms. Spellings said in a speech in St. Paul, Minn., according to the department's Web site. "We also know that not all struggling schools are alike, and that many states have identified a wide range of schools for improvement."

South Carolina was not one of the first five states that can make the changes, but state Superintendent Jim Rex said he thinks it will be among the next five.

"It would give us more flexibility to focus in on the schools that really need it the most," Mr. Rex told The Greenville News for a story posted on its Web site Saturday.

Mr. Rex said federal officials have "always been reluctant to admit that there are parts of the law that need to be changed."

Only 37 percent of South Carolina schools met their goals for yearly progress. Of those that failed, 13 percent missed just one goal. State education officials have repeatedly said the federal law allowed each state to decide what pupils should know by grade and set the proficiency bar. Reports have ranked South Carolina's standards among the nation's toughest.

But that puts the state at a disadvantage because the federal law requires schools to raise test scores for all groups of pupils until 2014, when all of them are expected to be proficient in math and reading.