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Education Secretary Proposes Changes to No Child Left Behind

April 23, 2008

by Paulina Mis

In an anticipated statement outlining potential changes to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings announced new plans to amend the act. Key improvements included the standardization of graduation rate calculations and the heightening of awareness about family tutoring and school transfer options.

Based on current regulations, states are permitted to define not only their benchmarks for academic success, but also the methods for determining their high school graduation rates. The problem with this approach became particularly evident after a  study comparing graduation gaps between major cities and suburbs suggested that numerous states fared much worse than their graduation data suggested.

Under the secretary’s new plan, all high schools would have to determine graduation rates by dividing the total number of high school senior graduates by the number of freshman who began four years earlier, with adjustments made for transfer students. Students who took extra years to finish would not be considered to have successfully completed the program, indicated a Los Angeles Times article covering the story.   The issue of assisting students attending “at risk” schools was also tackled, with the Secretary proposing an increase in efforts made to inform parents about alternative scholastic options for their children. Students who attend such schools have the option to switch to a more successful district school and additional tutoring opportunities should be made available to them. To address the problem of transportation costs to new schools, Margaret Spellings suggested that funding set aside for that purpose be increased.

In regards to the frequent requests for flexibility in measuring the progress of students with disabilities and those with limited English skills, the Secretary of Education stated, “the Department promulgated regulations to permit States to include in their AYP [Annual Yearly Progress] determinations the proficient and advanced scores of students with disabilities assessed based on alternate and modified academic achievement standards, as well as regulations that provide flexibility in the assessment of, and accountability for, recently arrived and former LEP [Limited English Proficiency]students.” 

The official version of this statement will be made available today in the Federal Register, and the public will have 60 days to respond before proceedings move forward.

As the NCLB primarily affects students, Scholarships.com has created an opportunity for them to voice their opinions about its effectiveness. In the 2008 Scholarships.com Resolve to Evolve Essay Scholarshiphigh school seniors were asked to determine and elaborate on why the NCLB has or has not been successful in reaching its goals. The number and quality of responses were nothing short of impressive. Winners of the annual Resolve to Evolve competition will be announced on June 30, and their essays will be made available to the public. Top responses will also be forwarded to the proper officials in the hope that we too can be a part of the solution.


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