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Duncan Proposes No Changes to Recent High School Graduation Rate Regulations

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“It is increasingly clear that a high school diploma is the minimum credential needed for success in the labor force.”

In October 2008, the U.S. Department of Education released new federal regulations and guidance on Title I that changed the No Child Left Behind Act’s requirements related to high school graduation rate data collection, calculation, and accountability. The regulations adopted much of the consensus that had formed to that point around graduation rates and adopted some core components of the policy solutions laid out in the legislation introduced in the 110th Congress.

In the weeks since the regulations were announced, many in the education community were watching U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to see whether he would make any changes to these regulations. In an April 1 letter to chief state school officers, Duncan announced no changes to the graduation rate regulations, saying that he supports them and believes that they “strike the right balance between accountability and flexibility, thereby encouraging schools to serve all student populations.”

“It is increasingly clear that a high school diploma is the minimum credential needed for success in the labor force,” Duncan wrote. “High schools and districts with low graduation rates must be held accountable for their failures and must take action to improve these rates. The new regulations related to graduation rates are an important first step.”

Every Student Counts: The Role of Federal Policy in Improving Graduation Rate Accountability, a recent issue brief by the Alliance for Excellent Education, examines the graduation rate regulations further. The Alliance also issued individual state briefs that outline a state’s current high school graduation policies and describe how recent regulations from the U.S. Department of Education could impact these policies.

Duncan’s letter did indicate some small changes to the approval process for states’ graduation rate proposals and said that more information on those changes will be forthcoming in the near future. The letter also included some changes to the Title I regulations that do not pertain to graduation rates, including a repeal of the ban that had forbidden underperforming school districts to serve as tutoring providers and an easing of the fourteen-day notification requirement on public school choice.

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