A panel established to advise the Department of Education on technical issues regarding state assessment and accountability systems under the No Child Left Behind Act could play a significant role in defining the next generation of federal accountability.
The 16-member National Technical Advisory Council, announced by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last month, is composed of state assessment directors, academicians, testing experts, and policymakers. The chairman is Tom Fisher, a former state testing director for Florida.
The panel was first noted in the Education Department’s proposed regulations, released in April, on Title I, the primary federal funding stream for K-12 education.
Each state maintains a plan, or “workbook,” containing detailed criteria on how the state determines whether schools are making adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Schools must make AYP for all students in reading and mathematics or face a series of progressively serious interventions.
The Education Department submitted states’ original accountability plans to peer review panels in 2003. But since then, it has vetted amendments to the accountability plans internally.
In recent years, the department has come under criticism for approving some states’ amendments, such as requests to raise their minimum subgroup number, or “N-size.”
In 2006, the Associated Press reported that states were excluding 2 million students annually—mostly those in subgroups—from school-level accountability determinations through the use of large N-sizes.
Others have criticized the department for permitting states to apply “confidence intervals,” which put a margin of error akin to that used in polls, around AYP determinations.
The proposed regulations seek to submit states’ accountability plans to external peer review, a process that would be guided by the NTAC’s recommendations.
The panel’s first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 16, in Washington.
A version of this article appeared in the September 03, 2008 edition of Education Week