School failure rates in the early days of federal accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act were only weakly connected to actual student proficiency rates, according to a study published last month in the journal Educational Researcher.
From 2003-05, 80 percent of schools in some states failed to make adequate yearly progress under the law, while in other states fewer than 1 percent of schools didn’t meet benchmarks. Researchers found disparate success rates were not strongly connected to differences in academic standards or the test difficulty in different states. Rather, “subtle differences in state policy"including how long a student had to be “continuously enrolled” in school to be tested, or the size of the statistical margin states were given when meeting a benchmarked to significantly larger failure rates among schools.
A version of this article appeared in the September 16, 2015 edition of Education Week as Accountability