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Story Idea to Steal: Remember Persistently Dangerous Schools?

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With Senate hearings underway today to discuss the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it’s a good time to look back at one of the quirkier aspects of No Child Left Behind.

Since the law took effect in 2002, states have been required to produce annual reports on school safety, including identifying campuses that are “persistently dangerous”. But like much of the law, states were given tremendous flexibility in setting the bar.

In that first year of the mandatory reporting I was working in Las Vegas. There was utter amazement among Nevada journalists at the findings of the school safety report. How was it, exactly, that our state could have nine persistently dangerous schools – all of them in Washoe County with 50,000 students — while neighboring California had not even one?

Were California schools really that much safer? Or had the Golden Gate simply written a “persistently dangerous” threshold that required such a drastic level of violence that no school would ever conceivably qualify?

California was hardly alone. In 2007, a report by the Office of the Inspector General found just 46 schools out 94,000 nationwide had been identified as “persistently dangerous.” The report called for the law’s reporting requirements on school safety, as well as the required corrective measures,  to be strengthened and better enforced.

The “persistently dangerous” provision hasn’t gotten much attention in recent years as schools — and policymakers — have moved on to the more pressing requirements of NCLB and its effects on the business of schooling.

But I find myself wondering — when was the last time you asked your district for the names of the schools on the “persistently dangerous” list? What extra support, funding or programs are students at those campuses receiving as a result of the designation? How many students have transferred, on the district’s dime, to “safer” campuses?

I’m interested to hear what other elements of NCLB have simply fallen by the wayside in your districts, either bureaucratically or in terms of public scrutiny or interest. Drop me a line at and I’ll include your answers in a round-up blog post.