NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 3, 2006

When the Associated Press reported last week that nearly two million mostly minority children aren't counted when it comes to meeting the law's requirement that schools track how students of different races perform on standardized tests, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' response was something less than urgent concern, says the Wall Street Journal.

The news that Spelling is also letting states slide on even reporting the math and reading test scores of minorities is especially disturbing because accountability is the heart of the federal law, says the Journal.

For example:

  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) makes allowances for schools that have racial groups too small to be statistically significant, but states have been abusing their freedom under the law to determine when a group is too small to count.
  • Today about one in 14 test scores overall go uncounted; minorities whose test scores on average lag those of white students, are seven times as likely to have their test results ignored.
  • Schools would much rather report "average" scores, which let education bureaucrats hide the fact that large groups of mostly poor and minority students aren't learning; Spellings is under pressure from the education establishment to be flexible.

NCLB's raison d'etre is to hold schools accountable for all their students; otherwise why not leave schools to be run by local officials, who pay most of the bills? Spellings' generosity with these exemptions is leaving schools to their own worst devices. And it is hurting the system's most vulnerable children.

Source: Editorial, "No Child Left Behind," Wall Street Journal, April 29-30, 2006.

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