Standards, Testing & Accountability

Amy Fagan

Stay tuned???..tomorrow we will be releasing our next report: "The Great Graduation Rate Debate." It's a very helpful primer on a very complex topic, and it'll be up on our website in the morning!

The Education Gadfly

Fun Fact Friday! - Per Pupil Spending and NAEP Test Scores from Education Gadfly on Vimeo .

Don't miss our other videos in the Fun Fact Friday! series:

Student/teacher ratio (starring marshmallows)

Star Wars and calculators



U.S. per pupil spending in constant 2006-2007 dollars:

National Center for Education Statistics

U.S. long-term trend reading scores for 9-year-olds:

National Assessment of Education Progress,

National Center for Education Statistics

Alex Klein


"I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice. I want them aspiring to be president of the United States." --President Obama, in his speech to the NAACP

AP: Obama Stresses Education in Speech to NAACP


2 : The number of Ohio standardized tests that got the axe. Leglislators agreed to drop the fifth-grade social studies and fourth-grade writing exams, which will save the state $4.4 million over the next two years.

Columbus Dispatch: Two standardized exams fail budget test

Alex Klein


"The bottom line is that we have to both give our students credit for the progress they've made, but also accept the reality that more must be done before we can have the best school system in the nation." --Richard Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago

ChiTrib:??Chicago school officials tout higher test scores


40 : The number of erasures found on some 2008 fifth grade math exam answer sheets in Georgia. When certain schools' low sixth grade scores made the high fifth grade scores suspect, the Governor's office conducted an audit. (The average answer sheet has only 2 erasures.)

AP: Georgia could toss suspect math exam results

Laura Pohl

Checker discusses national standards with John Merrow in this interview on the Taking Note blog. The conversation covers the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), No Child Left Behind and includes Checker's judgment on the direction of U.S. education:

A big modern country like the U.S. on a shrinking planet in the 21st century needs to move in the direction of national standards and tests, yes. Whether the present approach will get us there nobody can yet say. We had a false start or two in the nineties; it's not beyond imagining that we could have another one now.

Read the whole interview here.

Amy Fagan

Well, well, well. Looks like our Mike Petrilli is unstoppable. This week he burst onto the scene in the land of cheese and football. The land of the Green Bay Packers! That's right. Mike wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. He didn't exactly mince words though ??? he criticized Wisconsin for having ???some of the easiest tests in the country??? and for ???playing games??? with the implementation of No Child Left Behind. Hmmm??????.well, at least he didn't botch the name of their football field!

In 2002-2003, 1 million students participated in AP by taking at least one exam. Five years later, nearly 1.6 million did—a 50+ percent increase. But is growth all good? Might there be a downside? Are ill prepared students eroding the quality of the program? Perhaps harming the best and brightest? To find out, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute commissioned the Farkas Duffett Research Group to survey AP teachers in public high schools across the country. Perhaps not surprisingly, the AP program remains very popular with its teachers. But there are signs that the move toward "open door" access to AP is starting to cause concern. Read the report to learn more.

An interview with Steve Farkas, President of the Farkas Duffett Research Group.
Fordham commissioned the FDR Group to research and write this report.

Voucher opponents often argue that it's unfair to hold public schools accountable for results under the No Child Left Behind Act and various state rules while allowing private schools that participate in voucher programs to receive taxpayer dollars without similar accountability.

We at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute don't entirely buy that argument but we also believe there's room for a reasonable middle ground. It's time for the school-voucher movement to embrace accountability done right, just as most of the charter-school movement has done. But it's also vital to preserve the capacity of private schools to be different and not to deter them from taking children who would benefit.

In pursuit of that middle ground, we sought the advice of twenty experts in the school-choice world. This paper presents their thoughts and opinions, as well as Fordham's own ideas.

The majority of experts agree that participating private schools should not face new regulation of their day-to-day affairs. They also see value in helping parents make informed choices by providing data about how well their own children are performing.

However, experts are not of one mind when it comes to making academic results and financial audits transparent. Some would "let the market rule" and are averse to transparency or accountability around school-level results. Others would "treat private schools like charter schools" when it comes to testing, financial transparency, etc. Some would also like government (or its proxy) to intervene if individual schools aren't performing adequately.

We suggest a "sliding scale" approach...

This study examines the No Child Left Behind Act system and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) rules for 28 states. We selected 36 real schools (half elementary, half middle) that vary by size, achievement, diversity, etc. and determined which of them would or would not make AYP when evaluated under each state's accountability rules. If a school that made AYP in Washington were relocated to Wisconsin or Ohio, would that same school make AYP there? Based on this analysis, we can see how AYP varies across the country and evaluate the effectiveness of NCLB.

Compare data from the 28 states in our study. Click here for the full-size map.

State Reports