States with waivers from No Child Left Behind may be letting schools off the hook from helping their most at-risk students, according to a report released Tuesday by the Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of civil rights organizations.

NCLB waivers give states flexibility from some of the most challenging requirements of the federal education law, including that 100 percent of students in Title I, or low-income, schools must be proficient in math and reading by the end of the current academic year. In exchange, the states agreed to implement a teacher evaluation process that is tied to student test scores.

Before waivers, schools that did not meet the annual target for student  proficiency rates for the entire school and student subgroups, such as low-income, English learners and ethnic and racial minorities, were placed on Program Improvement status and required to provide tutoring and other academic interventions.

An analysis by the campaign found that the District of Columbia and 41 states with federal waivers no longer require more than 2,000 of these former Program Improvement schools to intervene when at-risk students need help catching up.

Rufina Hernández, executive director of the campaign, said coalition members worry that this trend could weaken efforts supported by the U.S. Department of Education to close the academic achievement gap.

“For us, that is a civil rights question,” said Hernández during a phone call with reporters. “When it comes to protecting civil rights, our communities have always looked to the federal government for that protection.”

The analysis was conducted before eight districts in the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE, received the only district waivers from NCLB to date. However, as part of its application to the federal government, CORE districts proposed increasing their accountability for students in subgroups.

Unite recently, California only required Title I schools to include subgroups if they represented at least 100 students. A school with 99 English learners, for example, would not have to include them as a subgroup in determining whether the school met its federal proficiency goals.

The CORE districts’ waivers require any subgroup with 20 or more students to be tracked.

Phillip Lovell with the Alliance for Excellent Education, one of the coalition members, said although civil rights groups are split on whether the district waivers were the right thing to do, they do see the stepped-up intervention for at-risk students as “generally speaking, something that is very positive.”

The report calls on the U.S. Department of Education to require states with waivers to modify their accountability plans to ensure that all at-risk students are identified and given the assistance they need to succeed in school.

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  1. Jeff K 5 years ago5 years ago

    Why should it surprise anyone that students who are learning English are not proficient in English? This is one thing that has always mystified me about the way that test scores are interpreted.

  2. el 5 years ago5 years ago

    Just to give people a sense of how small 20 students is: In an elementary school, it's very possible that 4 or 5 of those kids are from a single family. The actions of that family will have a dramatic impact on your scores. Do their kids attend every day or do they miss weeks of school? Are the parents literate and reading regularly to the kids? Are they financially secure? Do they have a … Read More

    Just to give people a sense of how small 20 students is: In an elementary school, it’s very possible that 4 or 5 of those kids are from a single family. The actions of that family will have a dramatic impact on your scores. Do their kids attend every day or do they miss weeks of school? Are the parents literate and reading regularly to the kids? Are they financially secure? Do they have a quiet place to do homework?

    If this great family moves in, your scores could go up dramatically. If this stressed and struggling family moves in, your scores could fall precipitously. If they’ve only been in your school a short time, your educational program has little to do with their success or failure.

    I am wondering, by the way, if there are any Title 1 community schools that have 100% of their students scoring proficient or better in all subjects anywhere in the nation. If so, let’s profile them and see what we can learn.

    Replies

    • Manuel 5 years ago5 years ago

      el, given that proficiency is defined by a particular score in a standardized test, I doubt that you will ever find a population where 100% have scored proficient. I am not a statistician, but I don't think it is mathematically possible. It is like asking that all gas atoms in a flask suddenly all get hotter (that's the physical equivalent of moving an entire population above proficient). Unless you put in a lot of external … Read More

      el, given that proficiency is defined by a particular score in a standardized test, I doubt that you will ever find a population where 100% have scored proficient. I am not a statistician, but I don’t think it is mathematically possible. It is like asking that all gas atoms in a flask suddenly all get hotter (that’s the physical equivalent of moving an entire population above proficient). Unless you put in a lot of external heat, it is not going to happen. Equivalently, kids’ response to force-fed academics has never worked across the board, as far as I know.