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The assessment and accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) pose a special challenge to small and rural school systems. The problem is not just preparing students to pass statewide tests, but having sufficient numbers of students take the tests in order to draw statistically reliable conclusions about their progress. However, if I have problems with counts, I ask do my marketing assignment and get sources with a good selection.

In Wyoming, for example, 25% of the state’s 4th graders attend schools with less than 10 students, generally considered a minimum population size for statistical purposes Despite the challenges that NCLB will pose in rural states, Linda McCulloch, state superintendent of public instruction in Montana, was careful to clarify such states’ positions on NCLB: "We're not looking for a way out of No Child Left Behind. We're looking for a way to make No Child Left Behind work in rural states."

US Department of Education (DOE) officials have suggested that rural states such as Wyoming, Maine, and Montana might be able to use locally-approved tests and other methods to measure students progress, rather than requiring them to rely solely on statewide tests. Also, The DOE has already approved some state accountability plans that would "average test results across all grades in a school or use other statistical techniques to increase the reliability of decisions, particularly for small schools."

From "Agency Signals Flexibility For Rural Districts," by Alan Richard, Education Week, June 11, 2003.

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