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Spellings Issuing Rules on Graduation Rates, Other NCLB Issues

April 22, 2008 3 min read

As promised earlier this month, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is set to propose rules today requiring a uniform high school graduation rate. But her proposal goes far beyond graduation rates, according to information provided to me. It would require states and school districts to take steps to ensure that students have access to choice and supplementary educational services and give them several new reporting and monitoring responsibilities.

Here’s a quick summary:

Choice and SES
Districts would need to take action to expand participation in choice and SES before they can use the money reserved for those services for general purposes under Title I. Those actions would include:

•Coordinating with community groups to notify parents of their options to transfer their children to a new school and/or to enroll them in free tutoring;
•Informing parents of their eligibility for choice and/or SES two weeks before the beginning of the school year;
•Ensuring that forms used to sign up for choice and SES are “widely available” to parents on the Internet and through other sources;
•Letting students sign up for SES throughout the school year; and
•Giving tutoring companies access to schools so they can tutor students there.

If a district doesn’t do these things, it would need to reserve its set-aside for choice and SES to spend on those services in the next academic year.

Every school year, districts would be required to report data on participation in choice and SES, including the number of students using those options and the number of eligible students who didn’t take advantage of them. The districts also would need to publish a list of schools in the district that students are allowed to transfer to under NCLB.

States would be given new responsibilities to monitor tutoring companies. They would need to check whether the companies’ instruction matches the state’s academic standards; addresses the individual needs of students; and helps students achieve proficiency on the states’ tests.

“N” Size
States would be required to reevaluate the minimum number of students in a demographic subgroup that a school or district must have to be held accountable for that subgroup. The number is commonly known as the “n” size. Under the proposal, each state would be required to validate that their “n” size was “no larger than necessary to ensure the protection of privacy for individuals and to allow for statistically reliable results of the aggregate performance of the students who make up the subgroup,” the rules say.

State Testing
The rules would clarify that states’ tests should assess students on more than basic skills. The proposal says that state tests should include questions “that measure both higher-order thinking skills ... as well as knowledge and recall items to assess the depth and breadth of mastery of a particular content domain.”

The rules also would require states to publish their reading and mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress alongside the scores on their own tests. Districts also would be required to list the states’ NAEP scores when publishing their own scores on state tests.

High School Graduation Rates
States would be required to use graduation rates that track cohorts of students as they progress through high school. They would need to have those methods in place by the end of the 2012-13 school year. The formula is the same as the one all states agreed to use in a 2005 compact among the nation’s governors.

In reporting graduation rates in the 2008-09 school year, states, districts, and schools would need to publish data for every subgroup of students tracked under NCLB. To make AYP, districts would need to meet state goals to improve their graduation rates. Starting in the 2012-13 school year, all schools’ AYP status would be determined based on their graduation rates.

The rules also would force states to adopt goals that would demonstrate “continuous and substantial” progress on improving their graduation rates.

Secretary Spellings is planning an announcement of the new rules today at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time in Detroit. Edweek.org will have more on this later today.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.

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