A school’s ability to achieve its goals under the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability system may have as much to do with geography as student achievement, a new report says.
Because states set their own standards, define proficiency differently, and employ a variety of statistical methods in interpreting test scores, a school’s accountability status could differ from one state to another, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found in research for the “The Accountability Illusion.”
“Unfortunately, the way NCLB rates schools appears to be idiosyncratic—even random—and opaque,” says the report, which was released Feb. 19. “Schools that make AYP in one state fail to make AYP in another.”
For example, of the 18 elementary schools evaluated for the study, 17 would have made AYP in Wisconsin, according to the report. But just one of those schools would have made AYP under the rules and achievement levels of Massachusetts, it said.
The Fordham Institute is a Washington-based think tank that advocates for national standards and school-improvement strategies such as charter schools and private school choice.
Research for the report was conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association, a testing and research firm based in Lake Oswego, Ore.
A version of this article appeared in the February 25, 2009 edition of Education Week