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NCLB Outrages

The Devil Is In the Details

Here is the introduction to the Rural Policy Matters report The Devil Is in the Details: Rural-Sensitive Best Practices for Accountability Under No Child Left Behind, available online at http://www.ruraledu.org/docs/devildetails.pdf

Across the country, states are concentrating their efforts on meeting the requirements and the spirit of the No Child Left Behind Act
(NCLB). The implementation provisions and timelines are demanding and challenging for all districts, but are particularly daunting for
rural and small districts. Although NCLB is quite prescriptive, the legislation does allow states some "wiggle room" in certain policy
areas, many of which are especially important for rural and small schools. Some choices can help rural and small schools successfully
navigate NCLB. Other choices may make the law more problematic.

This report focuses only on details of the accountability provisions of NCLB. We have identified 12 areas where state accountability plans can have special significance for rural schools and districts. We call policies that are beneficial to rural and small schools "Rural-Sensitive Best Practices." These
policies most clearly recognize the realities
and the challenges of schooling in rural
areas. The report looks at 15 states with
significant rural populations, (Alabama,
Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi,
Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming) and examines the extent to which state accountability choices are
"rural-sensitive" in each of these 12 areas.

Our intent here is not to "rate" states'
accountability plans, but rather to illuminate
some of the complexities of NCLB from a rural perspective. Though we have placed a checkmark ( ) next to state policies we believe are "rural-sensitive" in the tables that constitute the main portion of this report, we realize that a variety of factors led to some of these policy decisions; the lack of a checkmark does not indicate that the state is insensitive to rural issues. We understand that there are both competing state needs and competing NCLB requirements.

We wrote this report with two audiences
in mind. First, the report is designed to
help rural advocates isolate and understand
some of the details of NCLB accountability
that make a difference for rural schools
and districts. Second, we hope the report
will be useful for state officials as they consider modifications to state accountability

The report has three sections. The first
section is a chart that examines each of the
12 policy areas and describes its significance
for rural schools. For each area, we
have identified the most "rural-sensitive"
position. The second section examines
how each of these 12 policy areas is treated
in the NCLB plan for 15 of the most
“rural” states. The last section summarizes
the findings of our investigation, discusses
other areas of importance, and offers reflections about NCLB accountability in
rural places.

— Lorna Jimerson, Ed.D.
Rural School and Community Trust.


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