- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings today proposed new federal regulations that would make several changes to the No Child Left Behind law without the help of Congress, including requiring states to use one formula to calculate graduation rates.

With Congress unable so far to approve legislation to overhaul the 2002 law, administration officials have been taking steps to change the law themselves, hoping to placate its critics. That effort was expanded today with the proposed regulations.

“I’m proposing new policy tools that will give families lifelines and empower educators to create dramatic improvement,” said Mrs. Spellings, announcing the changes in Detroit. “Many are actions that have gained broad support through conversations on how to strengthen No Child Left Behind.”

She added, “While I will continue working with legislators to renew this law, I also realize that students and families and teachers and schools need help now.”

The much-debated NCLB law requires states to test and track students and holds schools accountable if they don’t make adequate yearly progress. Critics, including teacher unions, have argued that NCLB treats struggling schools too harshly, that it needs to be fundamentally re-tooled, and that it requires far more funding in order for it to work.

Today’s proposed regulations would establish a formula for measuring graduation rates and require all states to adopt it by 2013. Each state also would have to set a graduation rate goal.

The proposed rules would require that each state, which already publishes its own test results, now must publish those from the Nation’s Report Card, a national assessment test given annually to a sampling of students in each state. The goal is to shine a light on states that set the bar low for their own state tests and standards.

The administration also clarified that schools can use multiple types of questions on tests and multiple tests within a subject when measuring academic achievement.

The proposed rules would tighten NCLB to make it more difficult for schools to exclude students with disabilities or students who are learning English from the testing and tracking systems required under NCLB.

Administration officials have complained that chronically-struggling schools have done a poor job of informing parents of their rights under NCLB.

Today’s proposed changes would create rules to ensure that parents are notified in a clear and timely way of their rights to access free tutoring or to transfer their child to a better-performing public school after their own school has failed to meet NCLB requirements for several years.

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