Help and Accountability for the Nation’s Schools

Re “Schools Go AYP Over Test,” Commentary, May 8: John Merrow describes the “adequate yearly progress” measurement system as an annual measurement, arguing that this “snapshot” is prone to a “sizable error range.” He neglects to mention that when determining which schools are in need of improvement, states specifically base their decisions on multiple years of data for the reason that it is important to identify trends and not one-time snapshots.

Merrow also describes “machine-scored, multiple-choice tests” as the only criteria by which schools will be measured. In fact, the “No Child Left Behind” law explicitly requires officials to include at least one other indicator (such as graduation rates) when designing their state accountability plan, and they are free to include as many other indicators as they deem necessary.

As for the idea that we should use sampling to measure AYP, every child must be tested because parents must know how their child is performing and teachers must be able to evaluate and address the education needs of every individual student. Claims that testing forces teachers to “teach to the test” ignore common sense -- if tests measure reading and math, then what is wrong with a system that encourages teachers to teach reading and math?

Schools deemed to be in need of improvement receive extra help from the state to get back on track. Merrow is right about one thing: “The idea of holding schools accountable is long overdue.” By measuring adequate yearly progress and making use of the tools and unprecedented funding provided by No Child Left Behind, we’re finally accomplishing that goal.


Rod Paige

Secretary of Education