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NCLB's Counting Problems

Considering it's the embodiment of the standards movement, the No Child Left Behind Act can sometimes seem curiously lax. Among the signature provisions of the law—one trumpeted by President Bush—is the requirement that schools report student test scores by racial subgroup. But it turns out that many schools have been able to elude that inconvenience. A loophole in NCLB lets them disregard the scores of racial groups that are considered too small to be statistically significant—a measurement determined by state education leaders. Nearly two dozen states have been granted widely varying group-exemption thresholds by the U.S. Department of Education. As a result, the test scores of 1.9 million students nationwide—including those of roughly 10 percent of Hispanics and blacks students—aren't being broken out by race. "It's terrible," said an African American high school student in New York City whose scores were excluded. "We're part of America. We make up America, too. We should be counted as part of America."

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