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Short Life for the New Grad Rate Regs?

For those wondering which regulations new education secretary Arne Duncan might have his eye one, make sure the new graduation rate rules are on your list.

One of the last things former education secretary Margaret Spellings did was usher through new regulations establishing a uniform way of calculating graduation rates across states, similar to what the governors voluntarily agreed to do in 2005.

At issue is what defines a high school graduate, at least for accountability and statistical purposes. Should a high school get credit just for students who get a diploma within four years? What about those who take five or six years to finish high school? The new rules call for high schools to count only four-year graduates in their calculations, although the education department can consider districts' plans to count other graduates, too.

But some organizations, like the school boards, think the four-year standard is too rigid.

Duncan was receptive to revising that rigid standard, said Anne Bryant, the executive director of the National School Boards Association, who stepped away from her association's annual federal relations conference in Washington yesterday to attend an hour-long meeting with Duncan and other folks from education organizations.

Though the topic of the meeting was the economic stimulus package, other topics came up--especially as Duncan outlined his five top priorities as ed sec: improving early childhood education, developing better assessments, reducing the dropout rate, improving human capital, and a broad priority of expanding on "what's working."

Bryant said that in the context of the dropout discussion, she raised the new grad rate regs. She said that he showed a lot of interest in revisiting those regulations and told the group that his experience in Chicago Public Schools showed that some students will take longer than four years to get a diploma.

"He got it," she said.

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