GAO: States Struggling to Meet School Law

By David J. Hoff — October 12, 2004 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

States are falling behind in efforts to carry out the main K-12 law championed by President Bush, and the Department of Education isn’t doing enough to help them catch up, according a report from Congress’ watchdog agency.

Read the full report, “No Child Left Behind Act: Improvements Needed in Education’s Process for Tracking States’ Implementation of Key Revisions,” online from the Government Accountability Office. Or view the highlights of the report. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The department hasn’t given final approval to the No Child Left Behind Act accountability plans of 23 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“Although Education [Department] officials said that they have been in frequent communication with these states,” the Sept. 30 GAO report says, “the department does not have written procedures and specified time frames for monitoring states’ progress for these 24 plans still needing to meet conditions.”

In response, department officials said that their approach is adequate and that the GAO’s suggestions might slow down the process of approving plans.

“The point of the law is every child learning, not adding needless bureaucratic red tape,” department spokeswoman Susan Aspey said in an e-mail.

“We’ve gotten tangible results for students, and it’s only been two years,” she added. “And much of it is because of states’ efforts to develop fair, reliable, and valid plans to get progress for every single child.”

For their part, state officials say they are comfortable with the current situation. It allows each state to negotiate questions with the department in an ongoing way, based on the state’s own needs, said Patricia F. Sullivan, the deputy director for advocacy and strategic alliances for the Council of Chief State School Officers, based in Washington.

“That’s 100 percent essential,” she said. “You have to look at each state differently because their systems are so different.”

In June 2003, President Bush announced that the Education Department had approved the plans of all states and territories for complying with the testing and accountability requirements of the federal school law.

The GAO notes in its report that the department had given final approval, however, to just 11 states. The rest had been approved with con ditions. (“‘Approved’ Is Relative Term for Ed. Dept.,” Aug. 6, 2003.)

By July 31 of this year, the department had approved 27 states, according to the GAO, which was formerly known as the General Accounting Office.

A leading Democratic supporter of the law, which Mr. Bush signed in January 2002, agreed that the department needs to issue written directions explaining what states need to do to earn the final nod.

“The Department of Education should do everything possible to assist states in meeting their deadlines and get the job done,” Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said in a statement.

But department officials say states are making progress fast enough under the current method.

Eugene W. Hickok

Even though many operated with conditional approval, every state was far enough along to determine whether schools made adequate yearly progress in the 2002-03 school year, according to Eugene W. Hickok, the deputy secretary of education.

“That, to me, demonstrates that our approval system works and negates the need” for written directions explaining how comply with the law, Mr. Hickok wrote in a response appended to the GAO report.

Performance Data

The GAO also found that states are struggling to collect the student-performance figures and other data required under the No Child Left Behind Act.

More than half the state and district officials whom GAO researchers interviewed suggested that the poor quality of data was a major obstacle in implementing the law, which holds schools accountable—with the threat of sanctions—for showing that their students are making what is deemed adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

For example, California officials told researchers that they couldn’t get reliable racial and ethnic data from every school district in the state. Such information is vital in determining whether every demographic group outlined in the law is achieving AYP goals.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Data Webinar
Working Smarter, Not Harder with Data
There is a new paradigm shift in K-12 education. Technology and data have leapt forward, advancing in ways that allow educators to better support students while also maximizing their most precious resource – time. The
Content provided by PowerSchool
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Deepen the Reach and Impact of Your Leadership
This webinar offers new and veteran leaders a unique opportunity to listen and interact with four of the most influential educational thinkers in North America. With their expert insights, you will learn the key elements
Content provided by Solution Tree
Science K-12 Essentials Forum Teaching Science Today: Challenges and Solutions
Join this event which will tackle handling controversy in the classroom, and making science education relevant for all students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Citing Educator and Parent Anxieties, Senators Press Biden Officials on Omicron Response
Lawmakers expressed concern about schools' lack of access to masks and coronavirus tests, as well as disruptions to in-person learning.
5 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, testify at a Senate hearing about the federal response to COVID-19.
Greg Nash/Pool via AP
Federal Miguel Cardona Should Help Schools Push Parents to Store Guns Safely, Lawmakers Say
More than 100 members of Congress say a recent shooting at a Michigan high school underscores the need for Education Department action.
3 min read
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the residence of parents of the Oxford High School shooter on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the Crumbley residence while seeking James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Biden Administration Lays Out Its Top Priorities for Education Grants
The pandemic's impact and a diverse, well-prepared educator workforce are among areas the administration wants to fund at its discretion.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a White House briefing.
Susan Walsh/AP