Alicia Diaz and Joan Lord, Southern Regional Education Board
For coming on 20 years, SREB has been fighting the good fight in 16 Southern states to raise standards and hold schools and districts accountable for student performance. The group has been a consistent voice for educational excellence through its "Challenge to Lead" goals for education, so it's good to report that the effort is beginning to bear fruit. This report, released in advance of the latest NAEP numbers, analyzed state performance across a variety of student performance measures and showed real progress being made. To wit: In 2004, higher percentages of black, Hispanic, and white students in SREB states met state expectations in reading and math as compared to the year prior. The same holds true for other subgroups, such as LEP, disabled, and low-income students. Still, there are problems. High school graduation rates in most SREB states are flat, and only half of those states have set standards that seem to exceed NAEP's "basic" performance level - not exactly an exacting standard. Also worrisome is the number of SREB states that have set unrealistic "back-loaded" AYP schedules that will require enormous jumps in student performance in the out-years of NCLB if they are to remain on track. One of the admirable qualities of SREB has been the group's willingness to call a spade a spade. You can find this particular garden implement at http://www.sreb.org/main/Goals/Publications/05E05-Accountability.pdf.