Schools in Iowa with small minority populations are escaping penalties under the federal No Child Left Behind law, even though some student test scores may be too low.
An investigation by The Associated Press found that Iowa schools are exempt from penalties in five racial categories - white, black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian - if the number of students in any of those groups in a school is under 30.
Each state determines its own minority cutoff number, a loophole originally intended to be a statistical safeguard to prevent a school's overall score from being skewed.
That means schools in Iowa avoided penalties in the 2003-04 school year for test scores of 79 percent of Asian and 78 percent of American Indian students. Schools exempted 38 percent of black students and 40 percent of Hispanic children, according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.
To calculate a nationwide estimate, the AP analyzed the 2003-04 enrollment figures the government collected for those grades - the latest on record -and applied the current racial category exemptions.
Nationally, 1.9 million students - about one in every 14 test scores - aren't being counted under the law's racial categories. Minorities were seven times as likely to have their scores excluded as whites.
Of 254,679 Iowa children who took standardized tests in the 2003-04 school year, 6 percent attended schools exempt from sanctions in one or more of the five racial subgroups.
Susan Lagos-Lavenz, a professor in educational policy at the University of Iowa, said educators have issues with the law.
"The assumption is that No Child Left Behind is the system that will identify and catch every child. Some of us as educators aren't certain that this is the way to do it," she said.