MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nearly half of Minnesota schools didn’t make the grade under the federal No Child Left Behind law in 2011, the Minnesota Department of Education reported Friday, but a new waiver program could make it the last time the state releases the controversial list.

Minnesota applied unsuccessfully for a temporary waiver to the law in August. Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said the state will reapply under a program announced by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month. The federal government is offering to give states a pass on some requirements of the law in exchange for certain reforms.

“We know that many of our schools are being labeled on what we considered to be a failed system,” Cassellius said.

Until the waiver is granted or the law is rewritten, Cassellius said, the state must follow the law and report the schools that didn’t hit the benchmarks in the 9-year-old No Child Left Behind law. School districts must also abide by the sanctions in the law for at least another year.

“There is a chance we could not be approved,” she said, so districts shouldn’t ignore the penalties in the law. “I want to be very clear that school districts must comply with state and federal law.”

The department reported that 1,056, or 47 percent, of Minnesota’s 2,255 schools failed to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments toward the law’s goal of having all students proficient in reading and math by 2014. That’s about the same percentage as 2010.

Fifty-four percent of high schools, 66 percent of middle schools and 45 percent of elementary schools didn’t make the progress expected in the law. There were 286 schools on the failure list in 2011 that weren’t on it in 2010. Likewise, the test scores of 272 schools improved enough from 2010 to come off the list.

Samuel Kramer, federal education policy specialist for the state Education Department, said the state plans to apply for the waiver in November and hopes to get relief from the law by mid-year, but the 2012-2013 school year is probably more realistic.

In the meantime schools that didn’t meet the requirements of the law this year will face at least one more year of sanctions, which escalate the longer a school is on the failure list and can culminate with a restructuring that replaces most of the school’s staff.

He said some of the steps would help the school with whatever policy replaces No Child Left Behind, particularly the requirement for the schools that make the failing list for the first time to take a hard look at testing data and student needs and write a plan for improvement.

“If you’re doing them this year, they will provide some steps for the future,” Kramer said of the plans.

The No Child Left Behind law has been widely criticized for calling too many schools failures, in part because low test scores by a small subgroup of students can bring the label down on the whole school. It also encouraged states to lower their standards in the early years to keep more schools off the failure list.

As 2014 nears, many states that let their standards lag are seeing a spike in the number of schools failing to meet the law’s benchmarks. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned that 82 percent of the nation’s schools will be called failures next year, although some experts have disputed that figure.

The share of Minnesota schools labeled as failing has held about steady, Kramer said, because the state has maintained high expectations for its schools. For example, he said, the new state math test taken in third through eighth grades last year was considered to be one of the hardest such exams in the nation by a team of peer reviewers.

Kramer said giving the more difficult test allowed the state to recalculate how it labeled schools. If it had not done so, an additional 400 schools Minnesota would have been labeled as failing and faced penalties.

“Those kind of backroom bureaucratic decisions have the practical effect of labeling these schools as failures,” he said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (13)
  1. Murph says:

    Like anything else there is a limit to how fast you can drive , depending on horsepower,terrain and tune ups! Yearly improvements is not possible unless the machinery is properly maintained and updated.The with-holding of funding and the constant switching of what little remains is the real culprit.As long as the political whims of politicians have a stranglehold on funding.There is a ZERO chance of any real improvement in NCLB.It was invented to cheapen down the costs of education with the not so unanticipated result of starving the system to death!Sort of like the GOP plan for senior citizen pensioners on the agenda right now! Starve them,withhold and reduce the assistance they can recieve and eventually they will exit this life more sooner than later! That way the super rich can pay less in taxes! But you won’t hear about that on Faux News! All of us redneck,working stiffs that the GOP despises so much have to come to our senses and recognize the enemy where he lurks!

  2. G Dog says:

    NCLB is the most misnamed law since the Patriot Act.

  3. mel says:

    This isn’t surprising when half the students don’t speak English. Throwing more money into the school isn’t going to solve THAT problem.

    1. tan pup says:

      NCLB has nothing to do with children not speaking english. Though it is an issue in teaching, somthing I’m sure you know nothing about, that entire program was based on another TX program that failed and even TX tossed out. Mel, do your homework – oh, that’s right you are white, male, middle aged and seem to think you are entitled to it all and the rest of the population should bow to you. If you were smart, as your comments indicate otherwise, you could type in NCLB in google and find out what a load of TX cow manuer is, was, and If Obama had any spine, he would have tossed it out the first day he took office. Oh by the way, this program has cost tax payers MORE in the long run and did nothing to help students.

      1. Robert Radke says:

        Amen,brother!! the retired pedagogue

      2. mel"issa" says:

        um, tan pup, I am actually quite a young, attractive female. “Mel” is my nickname given to me in college, where I I got “edumacated”. As far as bowing down to me, please don’t do that; that would be awkwatd. And as far as teaching goes, don’t you think it might be a little difficult to teach something to a student who can’t understand what you are saying? You, tan pup, made quite a lot of assumptions, but I found it quite humorous, so thanks for my morning laugh. I do think the problem is more complicated than the immigration problem, but it does have something to do with the test scores.

    2. g says:

      My wife in an educator south of the river she is disgusted with that poor performing staff that lack the ability to teach our kids.

  4. peter mark says:

    TEACHERS ARE NOT TEACHERS teaching one child in class room take more time for other students teachers must use marker and board teacher spend time with one child leaving the rest in drowning picture, sitting idle how can a child pass this way teachers ascuse is the child doesn’t speak english this has been for many decade un change, when will it change? high schools are being taught by high school leavers real educated people are left out or getting the jobs

    1. G Dog says:

      Nice babble, peter mark.

      Could you make your point in English, please?

  5. Dale says:

    The list of schools which fail should be published on this web site. By not publishing the list only part of the story is being told.


  6. Horace Mann says:

    The names of the parents should be published.

  7. MN Teacher says:

    What many people don’t realize is that scores from the Special Ed students are included in the overall scoring of our schools, and that is not right. Having worked with Spec Ed students for many years I have seen how poorly they do on these NCLB tests, even with months and months of practicing and teaching, they are not able to comprehend or calculate the information. NCLB needs to be thrown out, Minnesota used to be a leader in Education before this garbage was inforced.

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