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ED: Waivers Won't Get States Out of Reporting

Guest blog by Sarah D. Sparks

Just because 26 states have been granted waivers from certain accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act doesn't mean they will be able to avoid the reams of student achievement data reporting required by the law.

The Education Department is in the process of changing its requirements for the federal EDFacts system, which consolidates data from various education programs including Title I grants to districts and the School Improvement Grant program, to adapt to the varied state accountability systems which will be created by the waivers, Ross C. Santy, the Education Department's director for EDFacts, told state and district officials at the annual STATS-DC conference here Wednesday afternoon. To the obvious surprise of many of the officials who packed the room, Mr. Santy noted, "There are no exceptions to the reporting rules in the statute; the components of [adequate yearly progress] are still required."

That means waivers states, who have created brand new accountability systems, don't have to do less reporting. They actually have to do more. All states, both waived and unwaived, must report the number and percentage of students in each subgroup, how many pass the reading/language arts and mathematics tests, the number who graduate high school with a standard diploma, and so on. In particular, unless a state specifically notes in its approved waiver that it will not use supplemental tutoring and school choice at schools identified for improvement, districts still must report how much money was spent on those services.

"Under Title I for the past decade we have had SES," Santy said, referring to the federal tutoring program. "If your plan did not remove supplemental educational services, there are still data you have to report."

Moreover, districts in states that receive waivers will have new reporting to match some of the new accountability quirks. For example, some states asked to track a "lowest 20 percent of students" group, and others asked to combine some racial or language student groups to create groups large enough to meet the minimal size for accountability. Districts in these states will have to report the numbers and test performance of any combined student groups separately and in addition to reporting all of the standard student groups.

So far, Santy said the department has received only three formal comments on the proposed changes, though he expects a rush just before the deadline July 30. The department plans to review those comments and produce a second draft of the changes for public review in mid-August, with the final new reporting requirements expected out in November.

To put in your own two cents on the department's proposals, email [email protected] before July 30.

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