U.S.'No Child Left Behind' Rules Aren't An Easy Read

 
The Department of Education's final regulations, nearly 400 pages in length, are supposed to make clear how states are to comply with the sweeping education bill that President Bush signed into law Jan. 8. The Department of Education issued interim regulations in August.

"States now have what they need to move forward in fully implementing the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind," U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in a Nov. 26 statement. "We will be firm but fair in guiding this bipartisan effort to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap," Paige said.

Scores of schools aren't making the grade when it comes to complying with the No Child Left Behind law.

"Accountability" is the buzzword for the reforms of No Child Left Behind, which overhauls the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA). Under the new law, schools must measure student progress each year and make "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) toward state standards.

David Shreve of the National Conference of State Legislatures said the final regulations do nothing to address the "over-identification" of schools deemed failing. Shreve said the law, and now the regulations, cast a net so wide and the requirements are so stringent that some 70 percent of all schools will be considered failing.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Education estimated that 8,600 schools are "in need of improvement," making sure not to characterize the schools as "failing," but that's precisely what everyone calls them.

Under the law, schools that fail to make progress for two years must allow students to transfer to other schools that are performing better. The districts also must provide the students with the transportation to get to their new schools.

Among other things, the Department of Education makes clear in the final regulations that schools can't use overcrowding as an excuse not to take students from schools with poor marks. Schools in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York did just that earlier this year.

"Tougher accountability by itself does not create higher achievement," Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust , an education advocacy group, said. "We worry about the lack of focus on teacher quality and public reporting," Haycock said in a statement.

The final regulations also don't provide specifics in key areas, Haycock said. For example, the department said it will require intensive training before alternate route teachers can hit the classroom, but does not spell out what it means by intensive. "Do they mean-six hours? Six days? Six weeks?" Haycock asked. States will probably propose all these possibilities and it is unclear how the department will respond.

The price tag for implementing the regulations: $52 million, according to the Department of Education. The final regulations are expected to be published in The Federal Register within days.
 
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