NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States' Education Plans Have Statistical Elements Challenging Comparisons

March 10, 2003

State plans for school improvement submitted under the Bush administration's education-reform program "pose challenges" to accountability provisions of the federal law enacted last year, a review by Education Week says.

States have used various statistical techniques that could exempt many substandard schools from proving "adequate progress" from year to year, says the study.

  • Many states have proposed a minimum subgroup size of 30 students to be included in calculations about adequate progress.
  • Other states have added a test of statistical significance to increase the certainty of their decisions regarding school performance.
  • States also are also proposing to average several years of test data or to look at multiple years of performance to reduce the possibility of misjudging a school.

States differ widely in the way they determine the reading and math proficiency of students. Also, many states propose a slower increase in proficiency through 2010 -- and more rapid improvement in later years.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, individual schools must meet state "adequate yearly progress" targets toward this goal, based on a stated formula, both for student populations as a whole and certain demographic subgroups.

Schools receiving federal Title I funding that fail to meet the target two years in a row must offer students choices of other public schools to attend.

Schools deemed "failing" three years in a row also must offer students supplemental educational services, including private tutoring. Schools that continue to fail beyond three years will be subject to drastic corrective measures, including state takeover or closure.

Source: George Archibald, "Education Reform 'Challenges' Seen," Washington Times, March 10, 2003.


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