Saturday, July 19, 2008

School rules eased for Md.

U.S. won't force big changes if most pass tests

By Liz Bowie Sun reporter
7:00 PM EDT, July 1, 2008

Maryland schools with only a small group of students who can't pass state tests will no longer be labeled as failing and be forced to make draconian changes under a plan approved Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Maryland was one of six states given permission to use a new way of classifying their schools when they don't meet No Child Left Behind standards.

The highly technical changes are likely to have sweeping ramifications for schools in the state that don't meet standards, particularly as the standards rise in the coming years until the school year 2013-2014, when all children in the nation will be expected to pass the tests.

"There is no question that the bar is being raised all the time and that more schools are going to be in these categories," said Maryland schools chief Nancy S. Grasmick, who sought the change from the federal government.

Last year, 233 of the state's schools were labeled as not making adequate progress, and 40 percent of those just barely failed.

Increasingly, schools were penalized when a high percentage of the student body could meet standards, but when the pass rate wasn't also high enough among one or two groups, such as special education students.

"The very best schools can have some challenges with a subgroup," said Grasmick.

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