In the turbulence of an incipient rebellion among the several states (including some rock-ribbed red ones), ED Sec. Rod Paige revealed at press time that he has found the virtue of flexibility–at least when it comes to credentialing certain kinds of teachers.

“I applaud our nation’s teachers for their dedication to their profession and their commitment to helping all children learn,” said Paige, still smarting perhaps from the backlash to his “terrorist” remark (see Front Page). “Their passion is my passion, and I look forward to continuing the partnership with educators and states to help all students excel academically.”

In the latest adjustments to the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), ED relaxed standards for teachers in small, rural, and isolated areas–about one-third of the nation’s school districts–where teachers by necessity often must teach multiple subjects.

Said ED: “As long as teachers in eligible districts are highly qualified in at least one subject, they will have three more years to become highly qualified in the additional subjects they teach; newly hired teachers would have until their third year of teaching.”

ED eased up on science teachers, too: States now will have “the flexibility to use their own certification standards to determine subject-matter competency, rather than requiring it for each science subject. For example, if a state certifies teachers in the general field of science, a science teacher may demonstrate subject-matter competency through a ‘broad field’ test or major.”

And, finally, ED declared a more open HOUSSE (High Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation) for teachers: “The change streamlines the HOUSSE process by allowing teachers to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge through one procedure for all the subjects they teach while maintaining the same high standard for subject-matter mastery.” This will be especially helpful to “current teachers who teach multiple subjects, particularly teachers in middle schools and those teaching students with special needs,” ED said.

Paige promised that more support and resources for teachers are on the way. These will include a new web site–www.teacherquality.us–that soon will be used to disseminate information about initiatives at the state and local levels. ED also will present summer institutes for teachers to be held across the country and a National Teacher Summit scheduled for later this year.

It’s just a guess, mind you, but I suspect these moves–and even the newly conciliatory attitude–won’t mollify the National Education Association.

Observed NEA: “Clearly, the ground on ESEA/NCLB has shifted. The debate is no longer on whether NCLB and its implementation is flawed and needs to be fixed, but on what needs to be fixed. With pressure from NEA and others who support the goals of NCLB, Paige is now beginning to make some of the changes that many have been calling for. Of course, much more needs to be done . . ..”

There’s no escaping that.

Take, for instance, the latest set of NCLB mandates: supplemental education services (SES). Based on purely anecdotal evidence, I’ve come to believe that a lot of educators are about to be caught flat-footed by the significant, complex requirements of SES. And, yes, what you don’t know can hurt you.

That’s why–as part of a promising new alliance between eSchool News and the National Association of State Boards of Education–we’ve put together an in-depth look at SES. Read all about it on Page 18. Forewarned is forearmed, at least.

As the high purposes of NCLB collide with hard realities, cooperation and action are more essential than ever for educators and education advocates. A fine example of what this field genuinely needs right now is on view at http://www.edtechactionnetwork.org/, the web site of the Ed Tech Action Network, a joint project the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

Consider how rarely the legacy associations in this field have given anything more than lip service to working jointly for the common cause, and you might appreciate how hard it might have been for two strong, emergent organizations to pull together. Doubly commendable it is, therefore, that CoSN and ISTE (and their leaders Keith Krueger and Don Knezek, respectively) have brushed aside potential impediments and are making this essential contribution to the field (see Page 10).

Whether it’s because the presidential campaign is under way or because Sec. Paige is feeling slightly bruised these days or simply because it’s the right thing to do, the administration and Congress seem more receptive to suggestions about NCLB just now.

As everybody says, support remains high for the broad goals of NCLB, but transforming rhetoric into reality is the hard part. Good intentions notwithstanding: ED and Congress simply are not capable by themselves of making the adjustments necessary to accommodate reality without abandoning high principles.

Our reach must exceed our grasp, but reality is inescapable. And that’s where you come in.