The new, improved, less flexible No Child Left Behind

Nancy Zuckerbrod at the Associated Press previews today's regulatory actions by the U.S. Department of Education here . Mostly these are initiatives that have already been announced--moving toward a common graduation rate, for example, and tightening the rules regarding how many students states can exempt from schools' Adequate Yearly Progress calculations (a.k.a., limiting "n" sizes). Most important, in my view, is the Department's intention to curtail one of the law's most perverse incentives--allowing school districts to keep Title I money that's supposed to go for "free tutoring" if not enough students show interest. It appears that the Administration would move toward a "use it or lose it" policy:

The regulations also call for school districts to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to notify parents of low-income students in struggling schools that free tutoring is available. If the districts fail to do that, their ability to spend federal funds could be limited under the proposal. The department estimates only 14 percent of eligible students receive tutoring available to them.

These changes could have an especially large impact if they demand that states sign off on districts' actions and "certify" that they have indeed done all they can to advertise the free tutoring before they can use the funds for other purposes. I'd like to see a state official claim that school districts have done "all they can" when less than 10 percent of eligible students are using the free tutoring.

What today's actions all have in common is that they mean less flexibility under the law--so don't expect the cheers that accompanied the Department's moves toward "differentiated accountability" (a.k.a., the Suburban Schools Relief Act ) or measuring student progress over time. But they deserve to be lauded nevertheless. Yes, I'm known to have criticized Secretary Spellings in the past for her implementation of NCLB (see here , here , here , here , and here , for a small sampling) but this time around, it looks like she's getting it right.

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