Tennessee families have to wait until next month to find out if their schools are meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind. That information is usually made public around the start of the academic year. State officials say changes made to the way students are tested and scored are to blame for the delay.
The state Board of Education didn’t sign off on the new standards for grading achievement tests until July, which is when the number crunching would usually be almost finished. After that, there was still the matter of getting federal approval for the changes.
Now, officials are sorting through the usual appeals from districts that don’t think their results were calculated correctly. Education Commissioner Bruce Opie says he wants to make sure those disputes are sorted out before any information is made public.
“This is so high stakes, there is absolutely no reason to try to rush to get this out now since it’s so late already.”
Officials say it looks like the list of schools in trouble will be smaller than they expected, even with the switch to tougher testing standards. But students may not be invited to transfer schools if the one they’re at is added to list. Under No Child Left Behind, that option must be given to families at struggling schools. The Commissioner says Tennessee is asking the federal government to make an exception since the academic year is already nearly halfway through. Opie contends it’s not a good time for inviting students to leave one school for another.
“Requiring schools to provide or offer school choice in January for a lot of children could be absolutely disruptive or counterproductive to what offering school choice was all about or what it was intended to do.”
Opie says the state applied for a federal waiver to the rule last week. He expects to get an answer in early January.
Districts are also required to offer individualized help, like tutoring, to those who don’t transfer out of struggling schools. That kind of help will be offered, regardless.