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N.C., Tenn. chosen for federal education experiment

Will tally progress individually under No Child mandate

WASHINGTON -- North Carolina and Tennessee, the only two states chosen for the No Child Left Behind education experiment, will be allowed to change the way they measure student progress under the schooling law.

The Education Department announced yesterday that the two states may track how individual students perform in math and reading over time. This project is known as a ''growth model."

Until now, states could measure success or failure only by comparing the scores of different groups of children from one year to the next. Many educators said that system is unfair, because it does not recognize changes in the population or improvement by individual students.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings also announced changes involving tutoring and schools affected by Hurricane Katrina.

How progress is measured is hugely important to schools, because it helps to determine whether they meet their goals, and thus avoid penalties, under the education policy changes passed by Congress in 2001.

States have been clamoring for a different way to judge student success.

Of the 13 states that sought approval to track individual students over time, only North Carolina and Tennessee were approved. Spellings had planned to allow up to 10 states in the pilot project this year, but others did not qualify.

This, they said, was mainly because their education departments lacked sufficient data.

''We set a high bar, admittedly, because we really wanted to get good information," said Henry Johnson, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education. ''I certainly would have liked to have had more."

Six states that had made the final cut were rejected: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, and Oregon. Five other states applied -- Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, South Carolina, and Utah.

They were rejected earlier because their proposals did not meet the terms Spellings set out last fall.

North Carolina and Tennessee schools will be able to choose how they measure student progress, whether they do this via traditional or newer methods.

The two states were picked, federal officials said, because they have data systems to track individual students, including all children in required testing.

In addition, they are committed to closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities. The two states will also track whether children at grade level are still improving.

Every state must get every child up to par in reading and math by 2014. States may apply again next year to track individual students' progress.

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