- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

State plans for school improvement submitted under the Bush administration's education-reform program "pose challenges" to accountability provisions of the federal law enacted last year, a review by Education Week says.
States have used various statistical techniques that could exempt many substandard schools from proving "adequate progress" from year to year, says the newspaper's study.
"Many states have proposed a minimum subgroup size of 30 students to be included in calculations about adequate progress. Other states have added a test of statistical significance to increase the certainty of their decisions" about a school's performance.
"States also are proposing to average several years of test data or to look at multiple years of performance to reduce the possibility of misjudging a school."
States differ widely in the way they determine reading and mathematics proficiency of students, the review shows.
Many states propose slower increase in proficiency through 2010, and more rapid improvement in later years to meet the law's requirement that all students perform at the "proficient" level on state tests by the 2013-14 school year, the newspaper's study showed.
Officials have declined to comment on the plans while the department's initial review is under way. Education Week obtained the plans from each state.
Only five of the state plans submitted to the U.S. Education Department by the Jan. 31 deadline have been released and are on the department's Web site. The department previously approved plans of Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts which participated in a pilot review process last fall New York and Ohio, because they exceeded federal goals.
The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to use data from the 2001-02 school year to set "starting points" for the percentage of students who must perform at proficient levels on state reading and math tests, and to set targets for "adequate progress" in increased percentage of proficient students each school year through the 2013-14 year.
"Those proposed starting points vary widely by state from 77.5 percent of elementary students proficient in reading in Colorado, to 13.6 percent of students proficient in English/language arts in grades 2-8 in California," the report says.
The initial targets were "based in part on how rigorously states define proficiency."
Ohio, for example, reported that 40 percent of its students were performing proficiently at each grade level in reading and math in the current school year and retained that target for 2003-04. The target moves to 50 percent for the next three academic years and to 60 percent by 2007-08.
The Ohio plan calls for 70 percent of students to perform proficiently in each grade by 2010-11, and increases that target 10 percentage points each year for the next three years with a projection that 100 percent of students will perform proficiently on state tests by 2013-14.
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, individual schools must meet state "adequate yearly progress" targets toward this goal, based on a stated formula, both for student populations as a whole and certain demographic subgroups.
Schools receiving federal Title I funding that fail to meet the target two years in a row must offer students choices of other public schools to attend.
Schools deemed "failing" three years in a row also must offer students supplemental educational services, including private tutoring. Schools that continue to fail beyond three years will be subject to drastic corrective measures, including state takeover or closure.

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