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Ed. Dept. Gives States More Time for Stimulus Reporting

On the same day President Obama announced the long-awaited details of the administration's No Child Left Behind Act waiver package, his Education Department quietly extended the deadline for collecting and reporting data on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a central part of the federal economic-stimulus program.

The SFSF provided about $40 billion in education aid to states to help them prop up their budgets in the aftermath of the Great Recession. It came with significant strings, including a slew of new data points states had to report, such as the number of teachers rated at each performance level in their evaluation system and the number of charter schools that have made progress on state math and reading tests.

The deadline to collect and report this information originally was Sept. 30, or four days from now. The new deadline is Jan. 31, 2012. (Hat tip to Whiteboard's David DeSchryver for flagging these rules.)

States will get even more time, if they ask for it, to implement three particularly challenging data elements: creating a longitudinal data system that satisfies the 12 components of the America COMPETES Act, reporting the number of high school graduates who enroll in college, and reporting the number who earn a year's worth of college credit within two years. If approved, states can have until Dec. 31, 2012 to meet those requirements.

And for good measure, the department puts states on notice that if they fail to hit these new deadlines, the department may take enforcement action, including asking for some SFSF money back. The department has issued such warnings before and, in the case of California, recently demanded that the state return a data-systems grant. In addition, the department warned it may consider any infraction when awarding future discretionary grant money. (There's still $700 million in Race to the Top money to be awarded as part of an early-learning competition, and a second pot for the runners-up from last year's contest.)

The rules also eliminate several data collection areas that the department viewed as duplicative or available elsewhere, such as test score gains by subgroups.

In a Friday letter to states, Deputy Secretary Tony Miller explains: "Given the importance of having the capacity to report these data, the Department is providing this additional time and flexibility in response to concerns raised by some States about their ability to comply fully with the reporting requirements by the established September 30, 2011, deadline."

For example, according to the new rules, the department found in a recent review that 43 states weren't going to meet the deadline because they couldn't satisfy at least one of the reporting requirements, such as the number of high school graduates who enroll in college. In fact, the department, in its new rules, also gives states an alternative way to report this data, given the difficulty in tracking students who enroll in private or out-of-state colleges.

Linking data from two different bureaucracies, especially when one of them is higher ed, is notoriously difficult. I wonder if even an additional 15 months will be enough time?


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