California, U.S. Department of Education Strike Deal on NCLB Rules

By Michelle R. Davis & Joetta L. Sack — March 15, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Department of Education announced an agreement with California last week that would end a discrepancy over how that state determines which school districts are in need of improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The change would bring the number of California districts found to be in need of improvement up to 184 from 14 now identified by the state, but fewer than the 310 California officials feared might have been labeled by the department. The state has 1,000 school districts.

The agreement, announced March 8, the same day Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met in Washington with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, follows months of wrangling between state and Washington officials over the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law.

Raymond J. Simon, the department’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, said last week that California had received approval to use Tennessee’s accountability model to determine which of its districts are not up to federal standards. Under that model, which is being used in about 20 states, districts are labeled in need of improvement if they miss federal achievement goals, or adequate yearly progress, for two consecutive years in a subgroup or subject across all grade spans.

For example, if a district subgroup, such as Latino students, does not make AYP for mathematics in elementary schools for one year, then fails to make AYP in math for the middle-grades span the second year but is successful on the elementary level that year, the district would not be identified as in need of improvement.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that districts labeled as needing improvement develop improvement plans and ultimately face sanctions, including state takeovers, if they don’t progress sufficiently.

California had been using an additional method to determine whether districts met annual progress targets. The state allowed districts to avoid the needs-improvement label by looking at whether their low-income students hit a certain threshold on state standardized tests. Under that method, only 14 districts met the needs-improvement criteria.

“There was some misunderstanding on the part of the [state board of education] at the time they used the indicator as to whether or not they could use it,” Mr. Simon said.

He said the law does not permit an additional indicator unless it is to be used to put more schools in improvement.

‘A Compromise’

The California state board approved the agreement March 9, and has notified the 184 districts of their status and asked them to draft improvement plans.

The districts also must cease providing supplemental educational services themselves by the end of the current semester, Mr. Simon said. Federal law requires those tutoring services for students in districts deemed in need of improvement. But the Education Department says that districts labeled in need of improvement cannot themselves provide that extra help.

The Education Department will treat the 2005-06 school year as the first year of the newly labeled districts’ improvement plans.

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said that the agreement was a compromise, and that he was pleased with some aspects of it and not pleased with others.

“This is a compromise from a very inflexible federal department and their one-size, overly prescriptive approach to public education,” he said in an interview last week.

Mr. O’Connell said some of the districts on the revised list are high performers and were included because of low test-participation rates by special education students and other subgroups.

A version of this article appeared in the March 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as California, U.S. Department of Education Strike Deal on NCLB Rules


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
When SEL Curriculum Is Not Enough: Integrating Social-Emotional Behavior Supports in MTSS
Help ensure the success of your SEL program with guidance for building capacity to support implementation at every tier of your MTSS.
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Profession Webinar
Professional Wellness Strategies to Enhance Student Learning and Live Your Best Life
Reduce educator burnout with research-affirmed daily routines and strategies that enhance achievement of educators and students alike. 
Content provided by Solution Tree
English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Voters Want Republicans and Democrats to Talk About Learning Recovery, Not Culture Wars
A recent Democrats for Education Reform poll shows a disconnect between political candidates and voters on education issues.
4 min read
Image of voting and party lines.
Federal Use Your 'Teacher Voice,' Jill Biden Urges in a Push for Political Activism
Voting in the midterms is a critical step educators can take to bolster democracy, the first lady and other labor leaders told teachers.
5 min read
First Lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Boston.
First lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Federal Federal Initiative Leverages COVID Aid to Expand After-School, Summer Learning
The Education Department's Engage Every Student effort includes partnerships with civic organizations and professional groups.
3 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event on June 2, 2022, at the Department of Education in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event at the Department of Education in Washington in June. The department has announced a push for expanded access to after-school and summer learning programs.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Restraint and Seclusion, and Disability Rights: Ed. Department Has Work to Do, Audit Finds
The Government Accountability Office releases a checklist of how the U.S. Department of Education is performing on a list of priorities.
4 min read
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. The Government Accountability Office has released recommended priorities for the Education Department that target special education rights.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP