College & Workforce Readiness

Draft ESEA Bill Requires High Schools to Report College-Going Rates

By Catherine Gewertz — October 11, 2011 2 min read
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The comprehensive draft bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as No Child Left Behind) is officially out. My intrepid Capitol Hill colleague Alyson Klein reports in our Politics K12 blog that the bill would scrap adequate yearly progress as the standard against which schools are judged. Some folks are pretty upset about this already, as Alyson reports, fearing that without specific achievement targets or consequences, schools won’t be forced to step up and do what’s necessary for struggling students.

There is plenty for everyone to paw through in this 860-page draft. But for purposes of this blog, you can start with Title I, Part A, Section 1111, which begins on Page 31. It’s the chunk that discusses academic standards and accountability.

You’ll see that it requires states to adopt college- and career-ready standards, which isn’t much of a surprise. But then it gets a little more interesting. It says states have to show that their standards—and corresponding test-score cutoffs—are aligned with the demands of credit-bearing coursework at public institutions of higher education. (Note that it does not make a distinction here between two-year and four-year colleges.) State standards and test cut scores have to align, also, with a state’s career and technical education standards, and “appropriate” career skills.

The draft also notes that states will not have to submit their standards to the secretary of education for review and approval. At another point, it confronts, even more directly, the ongoing arguments about federal intrusion into curricular decisions:

“Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State’s academic content standards or student academic achievement standards developed in accordance
with this section,” the draft says.

The bill details more unsurprising requirements about testing, which mimic what NCLB already requires (capturing student achievement in math, literacy, and science in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school). But tests would have to measure student growth and involve “multiple measures of achievement,” such as higher-order thinking. And, of course, they would have to validly assess the learning of all students, including those learning English and those with disabilities. States must also assess the English proficiency of English-learners, under the proposal.

As Alyson explained, adequate yearly progress as we know it would be a thing of the past, if the concepts in this draft hold together through negotiations. Accountability systems would be based not on consequences if AYP isn’t reached, but on disclosing through annual report cards various measures of student achievement and “adequate student growth,” and “continuous improvement” of all students and subgroups. (They’re still based only on math and literacy assessments, though; no new subjects were mandated here.)

A new twist for high schools is that they would have to report not only on their graduation rates, using the four-year cohort method (tracking the percentage of entering freshmen who graduate four years later), but also on how many of their graduates enroll in institutions of higher education by the next fall (again, no distinction here between two-year and four-year), and how many require remedial classes when they get there.

This is an echo of what we’re hearing in the NCLB waiver program, as well, as you already know.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.