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Published in Print: March 27, 2002, as Reaching Consensus

Reaching Consensus

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The negotiating committee considering rules for state standards and tests under the "No Child Left Behind" Act recommended a number of other changes or clarifications in the draft regulations from the Department of Education. Here are some highlights of the panel's proposals:

  • If a state provides grade-level content expectations for each of the grades from 3rd through 8th, the state's academic-content standards may cover more than one grade.
  • States, in accountability plans required under the new federal law, must identify languages native to limited-English- proficient students in their states and "make every effort" to develop assessments that would "yield accurate and reliable information on what those students know and can do. ..." The committee added language meant to encourage states to create testing systems that are designed to be "valid and accessible for use by the widest possible range of students" from the outset, including students with disabilities and limited English proficiency.
  • At the high school level, a state's academic-content standards must define the knowledge and skills that all high school students are expected to know and be able to do in at least reading/language arts, mathematics, and (in 2005-06) science, regardless of course titles or years com-pleted.
  • States must provide a description of the "rationale and procedures" used to set their academic-achievement levels for students: "basic," "proficient," and "advanced." But the negotiators deleted language saying that states had to support their cutoff scoresthat is, the levels that separate the various designationswith evidence from student work.
  • States must use their testing systems for purposes for which they are valid and reliable, and include evidence from test publishers. The U.S. secretary of education must make the evidence from the test publishers available to the public, upon request, consistent with federal laws governing the disclosure of information. Some committee members were concerned about protecting the security of test items that states or publishers planned to reuse. The draft rules specify, for example, that a requirement to report "itemized score analyses," so that parents, teachers, principals, and other administrators can interpret and address students' academic needs, does not require the release of test items.
  • It would be up to each state to determine the minimum number of students needed to report information for subgroups of students that is "statistically reliable." The committee added language specifying that states must justify their reasoning in their state plans. Some members of the negotiating committee had wanted the Department of Education to come up with a minimum number that would be consistent across states.
  • Private schools, including private schools whose students receive services under Title I, are not required to participate in a state's testing system. If a district provides compensatory education services to eligible private school students, the district must determine how those services will be assessed, after consultation with private school officials. The district may use state tests or other appropriate academic tests for those students.

Vol. 21, Issue 28, Page 27

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