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School Failure Rates under NCLB
posted by: Alix | December 15, 2011, 08:41 PM   

According to a new study by the Center on Education Policy, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., estimates by the Obama administration regarding failure rates under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have been grossly overstated. The research group, which often sides with the reforms touted by Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, claim that 48 percent of the nation's 100,000 public schools will be labeled failures under current federal education law. This figure is far below the 82 percent Secretary Duncan had been mentioning for months while advocating for the department's NCLB waiver plan and congressional action.

While skeptics questioned the 82 percent projection during the administration's ambitious plan for NCLB waivers that would allow individual states to circumvent NCLB requirements in favor of adopting several reforms, Secretary Duncan claimed the figure was based on thorough analysis. In an address framing the administration's education agenda, President Obama claimed disaster under the current law. "Four out of five schools will be labeled as failing," President Obama said at a Virginia middle school in March. "That's an astonishing number."

The Center on Education Policy is the only research entity that has compiled a comprehensive report on how many schools are failing. Still, the study is based on estimates and a tally of schools that doesn't reflect every school in the nation. Final numbers are not expected until 2012; however, the study claims the 48 percent estimate will unlikely change by more than a percentage point.

While the center's projection are lower than the President's estimates, the forty-eight percent failure rate, up from 39 percent in 2010, is the highest number of schools labeled failures since the law's inception in 2001. The failure label is based on a school's inability to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards tied to testing in each state.

When asked about the disparity in figures, Secretary Duncan released a statement ignoring the large gap in data. "Whether it's 50 percent, 80 percent or 100 percent of schools being incorrectly labeled as failing, one thing is clear: No Child Left Behind is broken," Duncan stressed.

Insiders are buzzing over the controversy, linking the fuzzy numbers to politics and putting pressure on congressional leaders to act on a NCLB overhaul. "They're overstating the numbers to make a political point for reauthorization," said Margaret Spellings back in March, former Secretary of Education under George W. Bush.

Whatever the disparity, the fact that nearly half of our schools will be labeled failing under NCLB is a wake-up call for education stakeholders. While Washington plays politics, there are millions of students and teachers seeking flexibility, not impossible mandates and stigmas from so-called "failure" labels.

What do you think about the study's 48% failure rate?
Comment below.

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