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NCLB Outrages

New Web Site Rates Performance of Federal Programs

Ohanian Comment: The Feds get to rate themselves. See more below this innocuous news item, which doesn't bother to check anything but reads like a press release.

God help us if NCLB does follow the advice and set more ambitious goals. See below.

By Michelle R. Davis

When President Bush released his spending plan for fiscal 2007 last week, his administration simultaneously unveiled a new Internet site that officials say is aimed at making sure taxpayers know how well, or how poorly, federal programs are working.

The site, http://www.expectmore.gov, reports on more than 800 federal programs, categorizing them as either “Performing” or “Not Performing.” According to the site, which is managed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, 27 of the Department of Education programs OMB has reviewed are performing, and 47 are not.

Programs are rated according to the government’s Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART, which the Bush administration has been using for several years to gauge effectiveness.

“For every program assessed, visitors can find a rating of the program’s performance, its strengths and weaknesses, and the program’s improvement plan,” wrote Clay Johnson, the OMB deputy director, during an “Ask the White House” online chat on Feb. 9. The Web site gives visitors a clear idea of how programs are doing, he wrote. “It shows where federal programs are succeeding, admits where they fall short, and lays out what all programs are doing to get greater results,” according to Mr. Johnson.

So far, according to expectmore.gov, about 80 percent of federal programs have been assessed, and the final 20 percent are expected to be rated this year.

The PART questionnaire determines whether a program’s purpose is clear and well-designed to achieve its objectives, looks at a program’s long-term goals, rates management of the program, and examines results for accuracy and consistency, the Web site says.

‘A Distorted Tool’

On the Web site, programs that have been grouped as “Performing” have been rated either “effective,” “moderately effective,” or “adequate.” Effective education programs, as determined by PART, include the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Programs deemed “Not Performing” are then rated either “ineffective” or “results not demonstrated.” Ineffective programs, according to the rating system, include the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and vocational education state grants—both of which President Bush proposes eliminating in his fiscal 2007 budget.

Visitors to the Web site can also point and click to access much more detailed information about a program’s PART rating.

But some government-watchdog groups have concerns that the rating system does not offer a fair assessment.

J. Robert Shull, the director of regulatory policy at OMB Watch, a nonprofit organization in Washington, called the PART assessment a “distorted tool” and said the Web site would make it easy for the public and lawmakers to take those assessments at face value instead of investigating how programs may actually be doing.

The site is “flashy and user-friendly,” Mr. Shull said. “Suddenly, people with an anti-government agenda will be inclined to use OMB’s really political assessments as a basis for some really harsh decisions” about staffing and funding.

“That won’t serve the public interest,” he said.

Click on programs that aren't performing and you will see how political this whole thing is.

Here's what you get when you enter Iraq.

See below for what you get when you enter NCLB [Enter Reading First and you get the message No results were found for your search.].



This program helps States put in place the assessments required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) for all students in grades 3-8, and once in high school, in reading and math, and the assessments required in science. These tests are used to hold schools and districts accountable for improving student achievement.


This rating describes a program that needs to set more ambitious goals, achieve better results, improve accountability or strengthen its management practices.

* It has a clear purpose and need, it is managed wel, and it collects and uses data to assess whether States are on track for meeting the 2005-06 statutory deadline for having reading and math assessments in grade 3-8 and once in high school.

* The program supports a significant component of NCLB accountability systems, but is dependent on States having data systems and the ability to collect, analyze, and act on testing data to improve student achievement. It is therefore important for these other aspects to be in place for the assessments to have a positive impact.

Improvement Plan

We are taking the following actions to improve the performance of the program:

* Conducting additional reviews of State assessment systems in 2007-08 to ensure that science assessments are of high quality (the reviews of reading and math assessments are already complete).

* Issuing guidance and providing technical assistance on the use of modified assessments for students with disabilities.

* Assessing whether State data systems are adequate for NCLB accountability purposes and whether States and school districts use that data effectively to improve student achievement.

*Effective is the highest rating a program can achieve. Programs rated Effective set ambitious goals, achieve results, are well-managed and improve efficiency.

Moderately Effective. In general, a program rated Moderately Effective has set ambitious goals and is well-managed. Moderately Effective programs likely need to improve their efficiency or address other problems in the programs' design or management in order to achieve better results.

Adequate. This rating describes a program that needs to set more ambitious goals, achieve better results, improve accountability or strengthen its management practices.

— Michelle R. Davis
Education Week


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