November 23, 2004 Extra Credit
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November 23, 2004

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November 22
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High School Accountability "Deserves Our Support"

The following are excerpts from a recent op-ed in Newsday (NY) by Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Jay Green:

"President George W. Bush announced this month that he will push to extend the accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act into high schools. While the guardians of the status quo are howling that the sky will fall, the evidence gives us good reason to think educational standards help rather than hurt."

"After decades of cruising along with no accountability for their job performance, many school officials have come to feel that they are professionally entitled to run our schools however they want, regardless of whether kids are actually learning. Now, with No Child Left Behind, they're actually expected to show results.

"One of the arguments against extending standards to high school is that it will raise the dropout rate. Some school officials claim that more kids would drop out of high school because requiring schools to teach students basic skills would make it harder to graduate."

"It's true that America's public schools have a major dropout crisis. Contrary to what most people think, only about 70 percent of high school students graduate. … But the empirical research on this question consistently shows that accountability exams in high schools don't increase the dropout rate. … [A]ccountability standards force schools to work harder at teaching basic skills, causing some students who would otherwise have dropped out to stay in school because now they're actually learning something.

"Another argument we hear from school officials is that accountability tests don't promote real learning; they only promote test manipulation. Teachers allegedly ‘teach to the test’ in ways that produce higher scores without conveying knowledge and skills.

"To see whether this is the case, I recently performed a nationwide study comparing the results schools got on accountability tests with the same schools' results on widely respected tests that aren't used for accountability purposes. These other tests are nationally recognized as genuine measurements of student learning, but they aren't used for accountability purposes. I found that schools' results on the two types of tests were highly correlated, indicating that accountability tests do measure real learning and are not distorted by test manipulation."

"Schools have always had plenty of excuses for why they shouldn't be held accountable for their performance. The president has announced that he will continue his efforts to bring the era of excuses to an end. That goal deserves our support."

The complete text of this op-ed is available from the Newsday online archives for a fee.


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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 11/27/2006