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How Can States Use College Entrance Tests for NCLB Accountability?

As states and school districts begin to revisit the number of standardized tests students must take, some states—particularly Connecticut—are contemplating replacing Common Core aligned assessments with college-entrance exams at the high school level.

The rationale is that most high school juniors have to (or should) take those tests anyway, so why not use them for accountability? (Check out this story for a rundown of how states use college-entrance tests in their accountability systems.)

But there are some limits to this approach. For instance, Kansas wanted to give its districts the option of allowing students who scored at a level considered "college-and-career ready" on entrance exams the chance to opt out of state assessments.

The department nixed that idea, back in August, citing the underlying No Child Left Behind Act, which calls for all students statewide in the same grade to take the same test. (It's worth noting that the department has made an exception to this rule, also in the Sunflower State, when it allowed one district to offer the ACT instead of the state test. The exception was for a short-term pilot to help smooth the transition to new statewide assessments.)

Kansas' back-up plan after the feds said no? Give the NCLB-mandated high school assessments in tenth grade, so that kids can start to concentrate on their college-entrance tests during the next two school years.

"We want them then focusing on where they are headed after high school," interim state education chief Brad Neuenswander told me. (More in this story from the Topeka Capital-Journal.)

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