Tightening the screws on loose reporting

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Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That may be what Congress had in mind in the latest reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, as it has now filled in some gaping loopholes in the 1998 attempt to hold ed schools accountable for the quality of the teachers they produce.

While the 1998 Higher Education Act had initiated a seemingly sensible requirement to require ed schools to report the percentage of their teacher candidates who passed state licensing exams, the 2006 HEA will now be requiring ed schools to report pass rates data for any candidate who has completed just 50 percent of the required coursework. Both ed schools and their all-too-chummy friends in the state education departments resorted to all sorts of shenanigans to accommodate the 1998 law, including redefining just who IS a program completer. According to the 2004-2005 Quality Counts, states reported pass rates that could best be characterized as "In Your Dreams," with only 20 at-risk or low-performing ed schools from a universe of some 1,300 nationwide.

Unfortunately, what had been a simple reporting requirement has now been made excessively complicated and thus will be easy to hide in whole new ways. Tracking who has completed exactly 50 percent of their coursework may pose a logistical feat beyond the capacity of state education departments, especially rather unwilling ones.