Education Needs to Monitor States' Scoring of Assessments
GAO-02-393: Published: Apr 1, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 1, 2002.
Concerned that Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) had not significantly improving the educational achievements of children at risk, Congress mandated major changes in 1994. States were required to adopt or develop challenging curriculum content and performance standards, assessments aligned with content standards, and accountability systems to measure progress in raising student achievement. In return, states were given greater flexibility in the use of Title I and other federal funds. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 augments the assessment and accountability requirements that states must implement and increases the stakes for schools that fail to make adequate progress. The 1994 legislation required states to comply with the requirements by January 2001 but allowed the Department of Education to extend that deadline. Education has granted waivers to 30 states to give them more time to meet all requirements. If states fail to meet the extended timeliness, they are subject to the withholding of some Title I administrative funds. Title I directors indicated that a state's ability to meet the 1994 requirements improved when both state leaders and state agency staff made compliance a priority and coordinated with one another. Most directors said that inadequate funding hindered compliance. Many of the states reported taking action to ensure that Title I assessments were scored accurately, that any exemptions for students with limited English proficiency were justified, and students with disabilities were receiving appropriate testing accommodations. As of March 2002, 17 states had complied with the 1994 assessment requirements; 35 states had not.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: Department of Education management requested and received a briefing on GAO's findings, and those of related audits, in mid-2002, and proposed to add to its state monitoring process a review of the quality control procedures states use to ensuring accurate scoring and reporting of assessment results. The Department has now implemented its revised monitoring procedure and results of this process reflect some attention to ensuring that states have provisions in place to ensure that potential mishaps in scoring do not affect a State Education Agency or Local Education Agency's ability to publish annual student achievement report cards as required.
Recommendation: To enhance confidence in state assessment results, when the Department of Education monitors state compliance with federal programs, it should include checks for contractor monitoring related to Title I, Part A. Specifically, Education should include in its new compliance reviews a check on the controls states have in place to ensure proper test scoring and the effective implementation of these controls by states.
Agency Affected: Department of Education