More Schools Pass -- and Fail -- 'No Child' Tests
By Eric Kelderman, Staff Writer
The number of schools meeting standards of the landmark No Child Left Behind Act increased in at least 32 states, according to a report released Dec. 6. At the same time, the number of failing schools facing penalties under the federal law has nearly doubled in the past year.
Those two-edged results were uncovered in an Education Week survey of how states are faring under President George W. Bush's 2002 education reforms, which require states to test children in grades three through eight and once in high school for proficiency in math and reading.
Wisconsin led the nation with 94 percent of its public schools meeting state standards on mathematics and English tests, according to the report by research staff at the news publication. Under the law, the number of students who pass those tests must steadily increase to 100 percent by 2014. Minorities, children who speak little English or come from low-income families and those in special education also must meet rising state goals.
Kansas ranked second with 93 percent of schools meeting benchmarks, and 92 percent of schools in Iowa, Louisiana and Wyoming met state goals.
The number of schools that failed to reach state standards for two or more years jumped to 11,008 from 5,869. Those schools face sanctions that include allowing children to transfer to higher-performing schools, providing free tutoring and, eventually, overhauling the school's administration and staff.
Forty-nine percent of Hawaii's public schools will confront the penalty phase of the law along with 36 percent of Alaska's schools, 28 percent of Oklahoma schools and a quarter of the schools in Delaware and New Jersey.
The number of schools in 46 states that missed benchmarks last school year, but not for two years in a row, fell this year to 19,644 from 24,611. Illinois, Montana, Nebraska and Texas still have not reported their test results.
Florida and Alabama each reported that 77 percent of schools did not pass state standards last year. Forty-eight percent of Hawaii's schools missed the mark along with 46 percent of New Jersey schools and 44 percent of South Carolina's schools.
In part, improved test scores are due to changes that 47 states have negotiated with the U.S. Department of Education that make it easier for schools to meet the law's standards, according to a study by the Center for Education Policy, a nonprofit think tank.
But the growing number of schools that met standards this year also shows that educators are beginning to focus on the groups of children who need the most help, said Diane Stark Rentner, deputy director of the center.
The number of failing schools jumped, in part, because this was the first year that many schools were eligible for sanctions under the two-year-old law.
"The bigger issue is the capacity of state agencies to help all these identified schools," Rentner said.