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March 29, 2004, Extra Credit
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March 29, 2004

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Every Child Deserves To Be Counted

No Child Left Behind requires all students to participate in a state’s annual assessment, although a school can make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) if at least 95 percent of students, measured by total school population and by subgroup, participate in the testing. This provision is one of the cornerstones of the No Child Left Behind reforms. It ensures that every child is counted so students who are struggling get the help they need. Full participation in assessments will make our schools more inclusive, responsive and fair.

Under No Child Left Behind, states already have significant authority in calculating participation rates. States determine how large a subgroup must be in order to be considered separately for participation rate calculations. In addition, many states have testing windows, which include “make-up assessments” for students who miss tests. These make-up tests can count toward the school’s participation rate.

As part of the Department of Education’s ongoing effort to develop No Child Left Behind policies that are right for students and fair for schools, the following are two new areas of flexibility to assist schools in meeting the 95 percent participation rate requirement:

  1. Average Participation Rate: In order to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP), schools must demonstrate that at least 95 percent of all students participated in the assessment. This requirement must be met for all students in a school and subgroups of those students (including ethnicity, poverty, disability, or English language proficiency, if the subgroup has a sufficient number of students).

  2. Under the new policy, a state may use data from the previous one or two years to average the participation rate data for a school and/or subgroup as needed. If this two- or three-year average meets or exceeds 95 percent, the school will meet this AYP requirement. Schools that are performing well in this category may not be unduly identified as “in need of improvement” because of a one- or two-year dip in their participation rates.

    For example, a school might find that its participation rate dropped to 94 percent for one year. If in the previous two years, the rates were 95 percent and 96 percent then the school may average these three years to meet the 95 percent participation rate requirement.

  3. Medical Emergencies: There are rare circumstances when a student cannot take the assessment during the entire testing window, including make-up dates, due to a significant medical emergency. For example, this might include a situation in which a student is recovering from a car accident. These students remain enrolled at the school, although such circumstances might prohibit them from participating in the test during the testing window.

  4. The new policy allows schools to omit such students when calculating their participation rates. This will ensure that schools whose averages might be affected by such situations will not be unduly identified for improvement.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 03/29/2004