Rules to Holds Schools Accountable

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Proposed federal guidelines would allow states to decide how to use a mix of test scores, academic growth and other measures like chronic absenteeism to identify failing schools and children who are struggling the most.

The guidelines, being released Thursday, spell out a broad framework for states to consider as they seek to improve schools and narrow achievement gaps.

"These regulations give states the opportunity to work with all of their stakeholders including parents and educators to protect all students' right to a high-quality education that prepares them for college and careers, including the most vulnerable students," said Education Secretary John B. King Jr. "They also give educators room to reclaim for all of their students the joy and promise of a well-rounded educational experience."

The proposed rules are the next step in the implementation of the bipartisan education law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December. The law revamps the widely criticized No Child Left Behind Act and returns to states more control over schools and education policy. One key provision of the law is a shift back to states on how schools are held accountable for how they educate their students. Another provision requires more transparency with parents and communities on how their schools are performing.

King plans to announce the new regulations with White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz during a visit to the J. C. Nalle Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Under the new law, schools may design accountability systems that consider measures beyond test scores and high school graduation rates. The proposed regulations say states may decide what weight to give to each of those indicators of success — and others such as school climate, chronic absenteeism and parent surveys — as long as they measure the performance of all students, including "sub-groups of students" such as racial minorities, kids from low-income families, and special education students.

The accountability plans would have to be shared with the Education Department for review by July 2017.

Under the proposed rules, states must identify failing schools at least once every three years. Those considered most in need would be:

—the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools

—high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent for all students

—schools with chronically low-performing sub-groups that have not improved after getting additional resources

On transparency, states and districts would have to work with parents to design new, multi-level and comprehensive ratings systems for school and performance. The ratings for schools would go beyond a "pass" or "fail" benchmark and would also include information on how well English-language learners are doing, as well as specific information about how much money school districts are spending per student. The ratings would have to be made available to parents and others, each year, and no later than December 31.

Federal money for school improvements, the regulations say, would continue to be set aside for the schools most in need.