States' Grades on Education Mixed

As report cards go, it is a spotty mix of promising and abysmal grades. But an independent review praises the states for progress given the scope of their assignment -- putting in place the broadest education law in decades.

Most states have met or are on the way to meeting 75 percent of the major requirements of the No Child Left Behind law, according to the nonpartisan Education Commission of the States. That level of compliance has more than doubled over the past year.

Every state and the District of Columbia, for example, have a policy to ensure that students with disabilities are included when their schools test reading, math and science.

But not a single state is on pace to fulfill another requirement of the law -- having a measurable way to ensure that a highly qualified teacher will be in every core academic class in school year 2005-2006.

Overall, the states are doing well in areas of testing students and measuring yearly progress, but they are struggling with requirements designed to improve the teaching corps.

"The toughest thing in all of this is going to be getting better at actually raising student achievement," said Kathy Christie, vice president of the ECS Clearinghouse, the commission's research and information arm.

Stem Cells Given Distribution Boost

The government, under pressure from both parties, said yesterday that it will create a bank for the distribution of stem cells but will not alter its opposition to the destruction of human embryos to harvest new cells.

The announcement is unlikely to end a debate between people who say that the government is stifling a promising avenue of research and those who say that creating embryonic stem cells is tantamount to murder.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said in a letter to lawmakers that the government stands firm on its policy that taxpayers who oppose the destruction of human embryos should not be forced to pay for it.

Ex-Official Named to Weapons Panel

President Bush appointed longtime Pentagon official Walter B. Slocombe to an independent commission investigating U.S. intelligence operations, particularly the flawed prewar information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Bush formed the commission -- called the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction -- in February after criticism surfaced about whether such weapons existed in Iraq. Allegations about such weapons were an important factor in the run-up to the war that drove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power.

Slocombe will replace Lloyd Cutler, White House counsel to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Cutler has stepped down for personal reasons.

Slocombe served in the Pentagon as undersecretary of defense for policy from 1994 to 2001.

Labor Dept. Faults Overtime Report

Disputing Bush administration estimates, a labor-backed think tank said that new federal rules will remove overtime protections for at least 6 million U.S. workers.

The study by the Economic Policy Institute was released a day after three former Labor Department officials said in a report requested by the AFL-CIO that "large numbers" of employees entitled to overtime would no longer get it when the new rules take effect on Aug. 23.

The Bush administration took issue with the findings.

"These latest studies are a rehash of misinformation that the AFL-CIO put out about the department's final overtime security rule in April," Labor Department spokesman Ed Frank said.

-- From News Services