The Accountability Illusion: No Child Standards Vary Widely From State To State

The Thomas Fordham Institute:

This study examines the No Child Left Behind Act system and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rules for 28 states. We selected 36 real schools (half elementary, half middle) that vary by size, achievement, diversity, etc. and determined which of them would or would not make AYP when evaluated under each state’s accountability rules. If a school that made AYP in Washington were relocated to Wisconsin or Ohio, would that same school make AYP there? Based on this analysis, we can see how AYP varies across the country and evaluate the effectiveness of NCLB.

Wisconsin report [259K PDF]:

More schools make AYP in 2008 under Wisconsin’s accountability system than in any other state in our sample. This is likely due to the fact that Wisconsin’s proficiency standards (or cut scores) are relatively easy compared to other states (all of them are below the 30th percentile). Second, Wisconsin’s minimum subgroup size for students with disabilities is 50, which is a bit larger than most other states (the size for their other subgroups is comparable to other states’). This means that Wisconsin schools must have more students with disabilities in order for that group to be held separately accountable. Third, Wisconsin’s 99 percent confidence interval provides schools with greater leniency than the more commonly used 95 percent confidence interval. Last, unlike most states, Wisconsin measures its student performance with a proficiency index, which gives partial credit for students achieving “partial proficiency.” All of these factors work together so that 17 out of 18 elementary schools make AYP in Wisconsin, more than any other state in the study.


Some schools deemed to be failing in one state would get passing grades in another under the No Child Left Behind law, a national study found.
The study underscores wide variation in academic standards from state to state. It was to be issued today by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which conducted the study with the Kingsbury Center at the Northwest Evaluation Association.
The study comes as the Obama administration indicates it will encourage states to adopt common standards, an often controversial issue on which previous presidents have trod lightly.
“I know that talking about standards can make people nervous,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said recently.
“But the notion that we have 50 different goal posts doesn’t make sense,” Duncan said. “A high school diploma needs to mean something, no matter where it’s from.”
Every state, he said, needs standards that make kids college- and career-ready and are benchmarked against international standards.
The Fordham study measured test scores of 36 elementary and middle schools against accountability rules in 28 states.

One thought on “The Accountability Illusion: No Child Standards Vary Widely From State To State”

  1. I havent had confidence in Madison Schools testing since we were cought falsifying test score results years ago we blamed a clerical person who for some reason wanted our students to look better.We are coming off of a 8 year war with the American educational establishment and the Bush Administration regarding testing standards,Obamas Secretary of Education seemed to have some ease with the Chicago Teachers union,perhaps he will be able to convince the Educational Special Interest Groups that testing can be helpful and not harmful.We cant be threatening and expect cooperation.Until, Columbia University,National School Boards Association and Teacher Unions see testing as a positive aid to educational study,research etc,we will be continuing to fall behind other Nations in preparing our students.

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