Thirteen days after an infamous Obama-Boehner rock-paper-scissors battle brought the sequestration conflict to a head and the federal government to its knees, the Department of State is eerily quiet and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving has stopped making dollar bills. Yet at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) offices servers hum, emails fly, and scrawling STATA printouts cover the walls as NAGB prepares to release the latest NAEP results. After a decisive move by Board Chair David Pistol, NAGB is the only operational federal outfit in town. “Instead of throwing in the towel like those wimps at Homeland Security,” Pistol said proudly, “I put on my thinking cap.”
So how have congressionally nixed “line items” like test creation, test administration, and results tabulation become redundant?
Simple: NAGB hired Nate Silver.
By acquiring Silver, the statistician who reportedly spends his post–happy hour evenings wandering the New York subway telling strangers the day they will die, NAGB was able to slash its budget to a workable $100,000, covering twelve months of dial-up internet and fifty pounds of Swedish Fish—all Silver needs to accurately and efficiently predict NAEP scores down to the last eighth-grader.
Not everyone was thrilled with Pistol's decision, however. Harvard test-grinch Dan Koretz, for instance, shook an angry fist, muttering something about “reliability and validity.” But others gave Pistol and his team great credit for saving NAEP. “I’ve always believed in doing more with less, next-generation testing, and the...