Local level most important in education accountability

BY JENNI WHITE Published: May 30, 2012
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Recent editorials in The Oklahoman have disparaged those not backing ACE tests and the A-F grading system. Apparently, those of us begging to differ with these complicated, federally derived accountability systems want dumbed-down standards that will graduate scores of unemployable public school students all across Oklahoma.

Not to dodge credit, but that trend likely began in 1965 when the first 31-page, 605-section Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now No Child Left Behind, or NCLB) unleashed a tidal wave of federal regulations upon local schools and established the “pay for play” scheme that keeps states towing the line. Today's NCLB is 9,601 sections and an untold number of actual printed pages.

Could unchecked growth of federal control over public education be why NAEP reading scores for 17-year olds have increased only one point since 1971 and NAEP math scores for 17-year-olds have increased only two points — over 41 years? Why have SAT scores in the verbal category dropped 25 points since 1972 and math scores increased by only one?

According to Federal Compliance Works Against Education Policy Goals, fiscal and administrative requirements “often lead to expensive and time-consuming compliance processes that are not related to improving student achievement or school success.” Lindsay Burke reports in “The Dead Hand of Education Reform” that “while the feds provided just 7 percent of education funding, they accounted for 41 percent of the paperwork burden imposed on the states.”

Santa Fe South High School in Oklahoma City personified this thesis recently when it submitted its NCLB waiver (A-F) paperwork to the state Department of Education, only to find out that while its test scores were fine, the school was placed on the failing school list because the paperwork wasn't filled out properly.