Only a few states are fully complying with the federal graduation accountability requirements, the study found.

Many states granted waivers from the No Child Left Behind law are relaxing or ignoring federal regulations designed to hold schools accountable for the number of students who graduate from high school on time, according to a new study released Feb. 12.

When No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002, states used so many different ways to calculate graduation rates that it was almost impossible to know how many students in the U.S. finished high school with a regular diploma in four years.

The U.S. Department of Education tried to fix that in 2008 when it established federal requirements for reporting and holding schools accountable for how many students graduate. But now, with 34 states and the District of Columbia granted waivers from No Child Left Behind, some are relaxing or ignoring some of those requirements, potentially allowing low-performing students to fall through the cracks once again.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington, D.C.-based policy organization started by former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, studied the NCLB waivers granted to each state and concluded that only a few states are fully complying with the federal graduation accountability requirements.

“These regulations are not the end-all, be-all of things, but they are an important element of the equation,” said Phillip Lovell, vice president of federal advocacy at the alliance and a lead researcher on the report.

(Next page: More findings from the study)