COMMENT by Dianne Weaver

There are plenty of No Child Left Behind critics, not the least saying it is a federal take-over of education and that the performance model sets standards that are doomed to fail.

The intent to improve public education is worthy.

Teachers claim they end up teaching to the test.

Others point out the Texas concept was sold by the Bush administration as a successful model, when it was actually riddled with failure.

Unable to push education fixes through Congress, the Bush administration is now taking its own pen to the No Child Left Behind law.

Many educators believe NCLB puts rural school systems, many of which have limited funding, in a situation to fail.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says she plans to make a host of changes to the education law through new regulations.

Among the biggest changes will be a requirement that by the 2012-13 school year, all states must calculate their high school graduation rates in a uniform way.

West Virginia's graduation rate statistics have been called into question, grossly underestimating the number of students who dropped out.

States currently use all kinds of methods to determine their graduation rates, many of which are based on unreliable information about school dropouts.

States, according to Spelling, will be told to count graduates as students who leave on time and with a regular degree.

While states will no longer be able to use their own methods for calculating grad rates, they will still be able set their own goals for getting more students to graduate.

Critics say that allows states to set weak improvement goals.

The six-year-old education law is President Bush's signature domestic policy initiative. The law requires testing in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school. The stated goal is to get all kids working at grade level by 2013-14.

Spellings has been taking steps in recent months to make changes from her perch. However, the proposed regulations amount to the most comprehensive set of administrative changes she has sought so far.

The regulations call for a federal review of every state policy regarding the exclusion of test scores of students in racial groups deemed too small to be statistically significant or so small that student privacy could be jeopardized. Critics say too many kids' scores are being left aside under these policies.

The regulations also call for school districts to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to notify parents of low-income students in struggling schools that free tutoring is available.

The feds estimate only 14 percent of eligible students receive tutoring available to them.

The administration's proposal also would tighten the rules around the corrective steps schools must take once they've failed to hit progress goals for many consecutive years.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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