Last week, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said the House NCLB draft would create “big loopholes” in the law’s accountability rules.
This week, Rep. George Miller responds, saying that the secretary has diluted the power of existing rules with her administrative decisions.
In this commentary published on edweek.org today, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee says that the secretary has approved statistical games that make accountability easier for schools.
He points out the department has let states use ‘n’ sizes of up to 200 students. That means a school that has less than 200 students in any subgroup isn’t held accountable for that subgroup. “This is an outrage,” he writes. “It runs completely counter to the integrity of the law.”
The department also has approved lenient confidence intervals—a statistical technique he compares to margins of error used in opinion polling. Half the states are allowed to use a confidence interval of 99 percent. He says that’s “the highest possible” such interval.
Rep. Miller writes the discussion draft would get tough by capping ‘n’ sizes at 30 and confidence intervals at 95 percent.
“When the Bush administration tries to cast the current reauthorization debate in terms of more vs. less accountability, don’t buy the spin,” he concludes. “What we should aim for is a smart system of accountability—one that doesn’t needlessly exclude millions of children across the country.”
The secretary and the chairman are scheduled to appear together Monday at a ceremony renaming the Department of Education headquarters in honor Lyndon Johnson, the man who signed the original ESEA. I look forward to hearing what they have to say there.
A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.