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SPELLINGS ANNOUNCES NEW GRADUATION RATE REGULATIONS: Proposed Changes to Graduation Rates, Title I to be Discussed at Public Meetings

“Permitting schools and districts with extremely low graduation rates or minimal levels of improvement to make AYP does not provide sufficient accountability for ensuring that students graduate on time.”

On April 22, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings proposed new regulations to strengthen and clarify the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) around improved accountability and transparency, uniform and disaggregated graduation rates, and improved parental notification for supplemental educational services and public school choice. In proposing these changes, Spellings pledged to continue working with Congress to renew NCLB but said that students, families, teachers, and schools need help now.

The new regulations would create a uniform definition of the graduation rate that is consistent with the definition agreed to by the National Governors Association (NGA) in its 2005 Graduation Counts: A Compact on State High School Graduation Data. Using this calculation, the number of students who graduate with a regular high school diploma in a given year within the standard number of years would be divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, with adjustments for transfers in and out. A state that does not have a system to accurately track students who transfer could use the averaged freshman graduation rate on a transitional basis, but by 2012–13, all states would have to use the more rigorous NGA definition.

The new regulations would also make changes to the way that states use graduation rates to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Under current regulations, in order to “make AYP,” most states are allowed to require schools to make only a small amount of improvement from one year to the next or to meet very low graduation rate goals (e.g., 50 percent). “Permitting schools and districts with extremely low graduation rates or minimal levels of improvement to make AYP does not provide sufficient accountability for ensuring that students graduate on time,” Secretary Spellings’s proposal reads. Instead, states would be required to set a graduation rate goal that represents the rate they expect all high schools to meet and to define how much improvement schools and districts need to make to demonstrate continuous and substantial improvement from the prior year.

The proposed regulations would also require states to break down graduation rate data by student subgroups and include that information in AYP determinations. According to the department, simply requiring disaggregated data to be reported has not been enough to close large disparities in the graduation rates of different subgroups and ensure that rates improve for all students.

Under the proposal, disaggregated graduation rates at the school and district levels would have to be taken into account in AYP determinations by the 2012–13 school year. Prior to that time, states would have to disaggregate the data at the school, district, and state levels for reporting purposes, but only at the district and state levels for determining AYP.

Other proposed regulations focus on bringing about higher-quality assessments and stronger accountability for results, as well as providing parents with the information they need to make informed decisions about public school choice and supplemental educational services. Additionally, they would require states and districts to report the most recent available results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and mathematics assessments on the same public report card that they use to report the results of state tests. Such a practice would draw attention to states that have “lowered the bar” on their state standards in an effort to ensure that higher percentages of students receive a passing score.

According to the announcement, the purpose of these proposed regulations is to build on the advancements states have made in accountability and assessment systems under NCLB over the past six years, while incorporating key feedback from the field into a more clear vision of what it takes to educate each and every student.

In an April 29 announcement in the Federal Register, Spellings announced that a series of public meetings will be held to discuss the proposed regulations. The meetings will seek comments from the public on the proposed regulations; they will be held on May 14 in Boston, May 15 in Dunwoody, GA, May 19 in Kansas City, MO, and May 22 in Seattle. The department is accepting public comments on the regulations through June 23. Individuals who wish to present comments during one of the public meetings should register at at least one week before the public meeting.

More information on meeting times and locations, as well as a summary of the proposed regulations, is available at

To watch a video of Alliance President Bob Wise’s take on the proposed graduation rate regulations, go to

To read the Straight A’s article on the signing of the NGA Compact, go to

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.