Assessment Experts Call for NCLB Overhaul

K-12 Testing


FairTest Examiner - July 2007


A panel of nine nationally recognized experts convened by the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) has proposed an assessment reform road map for lawmakers now focused on rewriting the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The Expert Panel on Assessment and Accountability released its report, Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning, in June. It calls for replacing the one-shot tests used to sanction schools under NCLB with multiple measures that better support high-quality teaching and increased student achievement.


The FEA is a working group of the signers of the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, which continues to gain support and now numbers 137 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, labor and civic organizations representing more than 50 million individuals. FEA, chaired by FairTest, convened the panel to provide concrete guidance to policymakers on implementing the assessment principles of the Joint Statement. A separate FEA report, Redefining Accountability, focused on providing federal assistance for school improvement.

The report's authors focused on shifting NCLB into a tool for school improvement, not punishment. Panelists Brian Gong, Alba Ortiz, James Pellegrino and Pat Roschewski participated in a news conference also attended by many Congressional staff working on education.


The panel's recommendations stem from six guiding principles:


1) Ensure that all students have access to the resources they need to succeed and build capacity to improve teaching.
2) Construct comprehensive and coherent systems of state and local assessments of student learning that work together to support instruction, educational improvement and accountability.
3) Shape the design, construction, and application of assessment systems so they are valid and appropriate for an increasingly diverse student population.
4) Replace the AYP structure with multiple sources of evidence to describe and interpret school and district performance fairly, based on a balance of progress toward and success in meeting student academic learning targets.
5) Improve the validity and reliability of criteria used to classify the performance of schools and districts to ensure fair evaluations and to minimize bias in accountability decisions.
6) Provide effective, targeted assistance to schools correctly identified as needing assistance.

The panel's recommendations drew sharp criticism from U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and several high-profile organizations that have been strong NCLB supporters, including Education Trust and the Aspen Institute's Commission on NCLB. They claimed the proposals would allow local schools to ignore low-achieving students, a distortion of the report's content and spirit.


The attacks demonstrate that there is now a substantive debate over the direction of federal education policy. Secretary Spellings and the others have been reduced to misrepresenting the report in order to deflect attention from the profound failure of NCLB.





o The news release, the full report and other FEA and Joint Statement material are on the web at and