WSJ wrong in accusing Conn. of avoiding "accountability and transparency" in student testing


Commenting on the state of Connecticut's lawsuit against the federal government over funding for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) student testing requirements, an August 23 Wall Street Journal editorial attacked the lawsuit as "a red herring" used by the state "to avoid the real issues of accountability and transparency" in student testing. The editorial further suggested that, prior to NCLB, Connecticut used "gimmicks like reporting 'average' test scores to hide achievement gaps among racial groups." In fact, Connecticut was already reporting test data disaggregated to show performance by race prior to the 2002 national enactment of those requirements under NCLB.

The Journal editorial claimed that "the money complaint is a red herring used by [Connecticut Attorney General] Mr. [Richard] Blumenthal, Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell and others to avoid the real issues of accountability and transparency." The Journal elaborated:

Connecticut wants to go back to the days when it could receive federal aid without complying with the law. No Child Left Behind says states must test children annually in grades three through eight, and then disaggregate the data so that parents can discover if a school is educating all students. No more gimmicks like reporting "average" test scores to hide achievement gaps among racial groups. Connecticut only wants to test in grades four, six and eight.

But Connecticut has published disaggregated school data since at least 2001 -- before passage of NCLB. A February 15, 2001, Hartford Courant article reported that Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores released the previous day showed "vast and disturbing differences among schoolchildren that correlate to where they live, how much money their families have and what racial group they are from." According to the Courant article, "When the scores were broken down by racial and ethnic group, the largest gaps are apparent in eighth-grade reading, where 73 percent of Asians met the state goal, compared with 65 percent of whites, 21 percent of Hispanics and 19 percent of blacks."

The Connecticut State Department of Education's website links to the Connecticut Online Report Center as a source for student assessment data. Currently, the Connecticut Online Report Center publishes to its website disaggregated student testing data from 2000 onward; it is not apparent when this data was first made available online. (Click to read the CMT data for fourth-graders, broken down by race, for the years 2000 and 2001.)

As reported in an August 23 New York Times article, Connecticut's lawsuit, announced on August 22, claims the federal government is not adequately funding the requirements imposed by NCLB. According to the Times, "Connecticut's legal argument is based on a passage in the law -- first written by Republicans during the Clinton administration -- that forbids Washington from requiring states to spend their own money to carry out federal policies." The suit further argues, as noted by the Times, that "the federal secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, has aggravated the harm to Connecticut by denying state requests for flexibility in complying with the law." A Connecticut State Department of Education study released on March 2 found: "Through FY08 [fiscal year 2008], there is a burden of approximately $41.6 million on the State of Connecticut to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act," in excess of federal funding for its implementation. A second state study found that the total costs NCLB will impose on three sample Connecticut school districts through fiscal year 2008 will exceed $20 million.

Posted In
Education, Standards
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