ORONO (AP) – The federal No Child Left Behind law is flawed and could leave Maine behind unless significant changes are made, a task force has concluded in a new report.

The task force presented its findings Wednesday to U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, R-Maine, at the University of Maine. The panel was headed by Leo Martin, a former state commissioner of education, and Anne Pooler, associate dean of education at the University of Maine.

The task force, which was formed a year ago by Snowe and Collins, found 26 areas that need to be addressed to make the law work in Maine. The recommendations center on the law’s requirements for annual testing and accountability, reading and English proficiency, special education, teacher quality and funding.

The senators said they would deliver the report to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, and pledged to work to change the law when it comes up for reauthorization in 2006.

“We have a number of concerns about the No Child Left Behind Law,” said Snowe.

No Child Left Behind was designed to help states achieve academic proficiency for all students.

But critics have said that because the law does not differentiate between mainstream and special education students, it will be difficult to bring students with learning disabilities to the same level as those who don’t have such handicaps.

The task force found it was unrealistic to expect all students to achieve the proficiency levels required by the law. It also found that the demands set by both No Child Left Behind and the state’s own set of educational standards, known as Learning Results, place an unfair and unrealistic burden on students, teachers and school systems.

While federal law allows states to enact their own methods to improve student achievement, one component requires that students throughout the country be given a national assessment test in order for the federal government to track their progress.

Many aspects of the federal law were designed to improve the educational situation and opportunities for the nation’s urban school districts. Collins said that Maine, as a primarily rural state, has encountered many instances where the provisions simply do not make sense.

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