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NCLB Outrages

More on Test Score Exclusion

Ohanian Comment: More politico grandstanding. Monty Neill of FairTest points to the facts:

The claim that 2 million scores are being ignored by states is a fraud that I've already seen pop up as "fact" in other news stories.

Yes, some states have large cell sizes - while others are quite small.

Staiger and Kane showed prior to passage of NCLB that cell sizes smaller than 67 are dangerously low. Walt Haney's research suggested 100 was the minimum number. When states first set theirs, 30 was typical.

The original article argued that not counting even one child was a form of hiding them and escaping problems. But Congress included (in a rare moment of sanity) the cell size requirement for 2 reasons: to ensure student anonymity, and to ensure large enough groups to allow accurate identifications. Whether the quoted parents understand how this process works, I do not know: would they like their child identified. Should a school be labeled failing if one or 5 kids is not "proficient" (really, has a high enough score on a test that does not match any reasonable set of standards).

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional leaders and a former Bush Cabinet member said Tuesday that schools should stop excluding large numbers of minority students' test scores when they report progress under the No Child Left Behind law.

The Associated Press reported Monday that schools have gotten federal permission to deliberately not count the test scores of nearly 2 million students when they report academic progress by race as required by the law. The scores excluded were overwhelmingly from minorities, the AP found.

Some leaders said Congress may need to intervene. The Education Department and others owe the public an explanation, said the Republican House Education Committee chairman's office.

"All stakeholders involved in the discussion should be willing to step forward and explain to parents and taxpayers why they have asked for special accommodations," said Steve Forde, spokesman for committee chairman Howard McKeon, R-California.

The reaction came as President Bush, visiting a school in Rockville, Maryland, said his signature education law is helping to identify struggling children early on. He singled out the importance of closing a test-score gap between white and minority children but did not mention excluded scores.

Lawmakers who helped pass the law in 2001 said the system that lets states get exemptions to exclude large numbers of test scores from the required racial categories must be addressed.

"If states are simply gaming the system and harming students' chances for a better education, they must not be allowed to continue to do that -- period," said Rep. George Miller, D-California, a sponsor of the law.

Miller, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, said he would ask Education Secretary Margaret Spellings how she plans to correct the problems.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, another backer of the law, said test scores should only be excluded if the reliability of the data is in question. He said the Bush administration should be making sure of that -- or Congress might step in.

Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, the Republican Senate Education Committee chairman, said the way student data are used would be closely examined when the law is reauthorized next year.

Former Bush administration Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who now serves on a private commission studying the law, and commission co-chairman Roy Barnes issued a joint statement calling the AP's findings alarming.

"If the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to ensure that all children meet state standards, then allowing large numbers of the most disadvantaged children to fall between the cracks is unacceptable," said Thompson and Barnes.

— Associated Press


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