Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NCLB – More Accurate Grad Rates, Better Parent Information Coming

As expected Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced important new regulatory changes to No Child Left Behind during a South Carolina news conference today. Spellings stated the new rules tighten up widely criticized loopholes and inconsistencies in state reporting of high school graduation rates and also deal with inadequate notification to parents when their child is entitled to supplemental education services.

States will be required to start using consistent graduation rate calculations by the 2010-11 school year, and the new rates will be required for accountability one year later. At the same time, states will have to report graduation rates for all schools and school districts disaggregated by race and poverty level, something Kentucky educators have never done. States will also have to create realistic graduation rate goals that don’t have loopholes such as one currently found in Kentucky where even a 0.01 point improvement each year is considered acceptable.

It is anticipated that once disaggregated graduation rates become NCLB accountable that poor performance for racial groups will be exposed in a number of schools.

Note: See our recent report on graduation rate gaps in Jefferson County schools for one of the very few available examples of this sort of data that has ever been assembled anywhere in Kentucky. If Jefferson County’s current graduation rate situation is replicated elsewhere in Kentucky, then many Kentucky high schools will have to make rapid improvements to say out of trouble with NCLB.

Spellings also said that once the new regulation takes effect parents must receive 14 days advanced notice when their child will be eligible for supplemental tutoring services under NCLB. Currently, our CATS-based NCLB system fails miserably in providing adequate notice in this area, and the new rules could force important changes in score turn-around times. Spellings noted stories of schools actively encouraging parents not to take advantage of tutoring, making it clear that such activity gets a frown in Washington.

Overall, it is clear that Spellings patience has run out with states like Kentucky that have made a mockery of some of NCLB’s requirements. Since the new regulations appear to have bipartisan support, it looks like those days are about to end.

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