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NCLB Outrages

7,600 Kentucky Students' Test Scores Excluded

Ohanian Comment: I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I'm all for districts being able to weasel out of NCLB rules. On the other hand, is nobody responsible for students who move? If students must attend at least 100 days to be counted, does this mean schools don't have to count truants? Or students they suspend?

LOUISVILLE - Test results for more than 7,000 Kentucky students were excluded from their school's state and federal accountability scores this year.

It's the result of a new state rule requiring students to attend the same school at least 100 days during the academic year for their scores to be included in the school's score.

Although those students' scores still count toward the district and state scores, critics say excluding so many children from individual schools makes it harder to hold those schools accountable.

"No school is being held responsible for them," said Bob Sexton, director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a statewide education group. "That lessens the schools' focus on those kids."

Before the change, prompted by a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind Act requiring schools to define a full academic year for testing purposes, Kentucky schools were held accountable for every student in their classrooms when spring testing began.

That requirement stuck no matter how long the student had been there.

Schools that fail to meet state and federal academic goals in two or more years must let students transfer to better-performing schools and face harsher penalties, including a state takeover, unless they improve.

Kathy Christie, an analyst for the Education Commission of the States, a policy research group, said the exclusion of mobile students from school scores is an "emerging issue" nationally that "people should be talking about." She said Kentucky's 100-day rule isn't unusually stringent compared with rules in other states, which set various definitions for a "full academic year."

Indiana, for example, requires students to attend 162 days in a single school, according to Indiana education officials. The minimum number of instructional days for Kentucky public schools is 175.

When Kentucky was making its decision, educators argued that the old system was unfair. They persuaded Kentucky's Board of Education in December to set its "full academic year" as at least 100 non-consecutive days' attendance at the same school during the school year.

As a result, about 7,600 students, or 2.4 percent of the 323,000 students tested, had their results counted in district or state scores but not in any school's score, according to preliminary estimates from the Kentucky Department of Education.

State education officials, who plan a more detailed district-level analysis of those numbers, said they expect the change to have the biggest impact in urban districts where more students switch schools. A February study by Louisville's Metropolitan Housing Coalition found that about 5,000 district students changed residences during the year, and about 30 percent moved more than once. They tended to be from poor neighborhoods and posted lower test scores, the report said.

Parent Traci Priddy, who leads Jefferson County's Parent-Teacher Association, said she's concerned that the state's attendance change could prompt schools to nudge failing students to transfer before they accrue 100 days.

But Leon Mooneyhan, director of the Ohio Valley Education Cooperative and former chairman of a group of superintendents that studied the issue last year, said what's important is whether districts use those students' results to improve instruction -- even if they don't count toward that school's score.

— Associated Press
Lexington Herald-Leader


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