The Department’s Draft Rules

March 06, 2002 2 min read

Here are highlights of the Department of Education’s proposed rules on standards and assessments under the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001:

  • States must develop content standards in at least mathematics and reading and, beginning in the 2005-06 school year, in science. A state’s academic-content standards may cover more than one grade. At the high school level, the standards must define the core knowledge that all high school students are expected to achieve, independent of course titles or years completed.
  • States also must develop academic achievement standards for students that describe at least three levels of achievement: basic, proficient, and advanced. They must describe, in narrative form, the competencies associated with each achievement level and the “cut scores” on tests that separate one achievement level from another. States must develop academic achievement standards for every grade and subject tested, even if the state’s content standards cover more than one grade.
  • To meet the testing requirements under the law, states may include, in their testing systems, either criterion-referenced or norm-referenced tests, or both, and a combination of state and local assessments. Norm-referenced tests, however, must be augmented with additional items to measure “fully and accurately” the depth and breadth of the state’s standards, and they must report results in terms of the state’s student- achievement levels.
  • A state that includes local tests in its testing system must demonstrate that such tests are of “equivalent content, rigor, and quality” to make a “fair, rational, and consistent determination” of the annual progress of schools and districts across the state. States must review and approve each local assessment to ensure that it meets or exceeds the state’s technical criteria. States must be able to aggregate local test results “with confidence” to determine whether the state has made adequate yearly progress.
  • States may rely exclusively on local tests only if they can prove that they lack sufficient authority under state law to adopt content and achievement standards and tests that would apply to all students in the state’s public schools. Such states would still have to establish technical criteria and a review process for evaluating district standards and tests, and they would still have to be able to aggregate test results across districts.
  • Each state must determine the minimum number of students needed to report data for disaggregated subgroups that are statistically reliable. States must make every effort to maximize the use of disaggregated data while protecting the privacy of individual students.

The draft regulations and the notice on the “negotiated rulemaking” process are available online at They were to be published in the Federal Register late last week.

—Lynn Olson

A version of this article appeared in the March 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as The Department’s Draft Rules