U.S. Secretary of Education Announced Proposed Regulations for No Child Left Behind

In an April 22 visit to the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, MI, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced proposed regulations for No Child Left Behind that would address strengthening choice and free tutoring, accountability, assessments, and transparency. Secretary Spellings stated, “I’m proposing new policy tools that will give families lifelines — and empower educators to create dramatic improvement.”

The proposed regulations dealing with strengthening public school choice and supplemental educational services (SES) will offer a chance for parents to make better informed decisions about education options and will also help states and districts implement the programs.

Districts under the proposed regulations would be required to give timely notification, at least 14 days before the start of the school year, to parents regarding the option of public school choice. Also, parents of eligible children would also need to be informed of the availability and benefits of SES. As Secretary Spellings stated, “Research has shown that effective programs can reduce the achievement gap by 10 to 15 percent.” But, “the problem is, these options will not make a difference if parents don’t know they’re available.”

States would also be required to consider several factors when approving an SES provider. These factors include evidence from the SES provider that their instruction and content are research-based and relevant to state academic content and achievement standards and evaluation results showing the effectiveness of the instructional program.

Other portions of the proposed regulations will affect accountability, assessments, and transparency.  The regulations would include clarification that measures of student academic achievement can include a single assessment with multiple question formats ranging in difficulty, as well as more than one assessment per subject area.

To also strengthen state assessment and accountability systems, a National Technical Advisory Council (National TAC) would be formed to advise the secretary on issues of state standards, assessments, and accountability systems. The secretary would select 10 to 15 members based on nominations from the public. 

Also dealing with accountability, the provisions would ensure the maximum number of students and subgroups are included in adequate yearly progress (AYP) definitions by making states explain in their accountability workbooks how minimum subgroup size and other components of their AYP definitions combine to provide accurate information. States would then be required to submit these notebooks to the Department of Education for technical assistance and peer review.

A uniform definition of the graduation rate, consistent with the one agreed upon by the National Governors Association, would also be established in these regulations. Also, in order to make AYP, a school or district would need to meet the graduation rate goal set by the state or show “continuous and substantial improvement” from the previous year. Disaggregated graduation rates would also need to be taken into account in AYP determinations.

The Department of Education is also concerned about restructuring efforts; to that effect, new regulations would require that interventions implemented in school restructuring be more rigorous and comprehensive than those set in place after a school was first in need of improvement. Districts will also be set to the task of implementing interventions that are in relation to why the school is in need of restructuring.

Secretary Spellings concluded, “Taking an honest look at problems in our school can be a painful process.” Even so, she felt that improvements, such as these proposed regulations, will help achieve the goals of No Child Left Behind. “We can do better,” she stated, “and in many cases we already are.”