Stateline Story

States Slow to Issue School-Performance Lists

More than 6,000 schools in 13 states failed to make sure all their students met new state reading and math standards, according to lists the 13 states published recently laying out how well their schools are performing.

Two-thirds of the states have yet to publish their lists that show which schools made the grade and which schools are in "need of improvement" under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

The federal law does not set a particular date that states must release their lists, but only says the lists are to be published before the start of the school year. The aim is to give parents time to transfer their children to other schools before the new school year begins.

It's anybody's guess when all the lists will come out or how many schools will be on the lists. But some education experts predict there will be many more schools on the list than many parents expect.

In California, for example, 70 percent of schools will miss their targets, said Jason Pierce, researcher with the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of state and local school offficials and policy-makers.

That means nearly 5,000 of the more than 7,300 public schools in California didn't make "adequate yearly progress."

Some 760 schools in Michigan, 630 schools in Illinois, 250 schools in Minnesota and 100 in both Hawaii and Louisiana all made their states' lists, according to ECS, which is tracking states as they release the information (see side bar). ECS receives funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, the same organization that funds Stateline.org.

The reason so many schools are landing on these lists is that the federal No Child Left Behind law sets a high standard, experts said. Under the federal law, a school's "average" test scores are not good enough. States, districts and schools have to report how well students in several categories are doing academically. This includes low-income students, students with disabilities, students who have limited English skills and students from major racial and ethnic groups. If a school misses its goals for even one of those groups, the school then lands on the list.

"Many parents are going to be surprised to learn that schools in their own communities are not serving all students well," said Greg Schneiders, partner with Schneiders / Della Volpe / Schulman (SDS), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm.

SDS recently conducted a poll for the Business Roundtable that found most parents believe that all students in their areas receive the same quality of education. The poll's results also found that a majority of parents and voters support the new reporting requirements under No Child Left Behind.

The Business Roundtable, made up of 150 chief executive officers of large companies, said it commissioned the survey to get an "early signal" about parent and voter understanding of the new requirements under No Child Left Behind "to help state leaders communicate effectively about the new changes."

Some education analysts wonder if the states are publishing the lists in time for parents to act.

"It's not just parental involvement, but parental choice, that was brought by No Child Left Behind. And we need to be sure that parents are offered the information to take advantage of those choices," said Kimberly Tulp, a spokeswoman for the Education Leaders Council, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates greater school choice.

When states release their lists, the data typically appears on the state education departments' Web sites.

The list is just one aspect of No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration's sweeping education law that requires all students be proficient in math and English by 2014.

The federal law does not impose penalties on schools that make such a list just once. But schools that get federal funds and fail to achieve their goals for two years in a row must pay for the costs of transporting those students who want to go to better schools. Schools that are on the list for three consecutive years must provide tutoring.

Tags: Education