Flexibility given in testing students learning English
Associated Press
Sept. 14, 2006

WASHINGTON - The Education Department gave states final permission Wednesday to leave out the test scores of newly enrolled kids with limited English kills when grading schools.

The goal is to give schools extra time to work with these students before being held accountable for their yearly progress. Schools welcome the offer because it helps them meet their goals - and avoid penalties - under the No Child Left Behind law.

The policy applies only to students who have been in a U.S. school for less than a year. States may exempt their math and reading scores when measuring yearly progress. Though freshly repackaged, the flexibility is not new. States have been allowed to exempt test scores on a case-by-case basis since 2004, when former Education Secretary Rod Paige announced the draft policy. Forty of them now do it.

The final version, announced Wednesday by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, opens the offer to all states.

Arizona Schools Chief Tom Horne has called this policy absurd and sued the federal government in July saying it is not applicable to the state.

Arizona has given its language-learners three years to get up to speed before using the students' AIMS test scores to determine if a school passes or fails the federal "adequate yearly progress" standard.

Horne said he had a handshake deal with federal officials. Until the suit is settled, Arizona had to include scores from second- and third-year language-learners. State officials said 100 schools failed to make adequate yearly progress because of the new policy.

Staff writer Pat Kossan contributed to this article.