The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA) requires states to develop high-quality academic assessments aligned with state academic standards. Education has provided states with about $400 million for NCLBA assessment implementation every year since 2002. GAO examined (1) changes in reported state expenditures on assessments, and how states have spent funds; (2) factors states have considered in making decisions about question (item) type and assessment content; (3) challenges states have faced in ensuring that their assessments are valid and reliable; and (4) the extent to which Education has supported state efforts to comply with assessment requirements. GAO surveyed state and District of Columbia assessment directors, analyzed Education and state documents, and interviewed assessment officials from Maryland, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas and eight school districts in addition to assessment vendors and experts.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Education||1. To help ensure the validity and reliability of ESEA assessments, the Secretary of Education should update Education's peer review protocols to incorporate best practices in assessment security when they become available in spring 2010.|
|Department of Education||2. To improve the efficiency of Education's peer review process, the Secretary of Education should develop methods for peer reviewers and states to communicate directly during the peer review process so questions that arise can be addressed quickly. For example, peer reviewers could be assigned a generic e-mail address that would allow them to remain anonymous but still allow them to communicate directly with states.|
|Department of Education||3. To improve the transparency of its approval decisions pertaining to states' standards and assessment systems and help states understand what they need to do to improve their systems, in cases where the Secretary of Education's peer review decisions differed from those of the reviewers, the Secretary should explain why they differed.|