AUTHORIZATION OF THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, NATIONAL ASSESSMENT OF EDUCATIONAL PROGRESS AND NATIONAL ASSESSMENT GOVERNING BOARD
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD,
YOUTH AND FAMILIES
COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
HEARING HELD IN WASHINGTON, DC, MAY 11, 2000
Serial No. 106-108
Printed for the use of the Committee on Education
and the Workforce
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families
Hearing on "Authorization of the National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and National Assessment Governing Board
May 11, 2000
2175 Rayburn House Office Building
TABLE OF CONTENTS
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MICHAEL CASTLE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES *
Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families
STATEMENT OF MR. MARK D. MUSICK, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ASSESSMENT GOVERNING BOARD, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
STATEMENT OF DR. GARY W. PHILLIPS, ACTING COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
STATEMENT OF DR. CHESTER E. FINN, JR., PRESIDENT, THOMAS B. FORDHAM FOUNDATION, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
STATEMENT OF MR. CHRISTOPHER J. KLICKA, ESQ., SENIOR COUNSEL, HOME SCHOOL LEGAL DEFENSE ASSOCIATION, AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR HOME EDUCATION, PURCELLVILLE, VIRGINIA *
STATEMENT OF DR. MICHAEL E. WARD, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA *
APPENDIX A -- THE OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE MICHAEL CASTLE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF DELAWARE, AND CHAIRMAN, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES *
APPENDIX B -- THE OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE DALE E. KILDEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, AND RANKING MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES *
APPENDIX C -- THE WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF MR. MARK D. MUSICK, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ASSESSMENT GOVERNING BOARD, WASHINGTON, D.C. *
Hearing on "Authorization of the National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and National Assessment Governing Board
May 11, 2000
2175 Rayburn House Office Building
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:06 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Michael N. Castle [chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Castle, Schaffer, Kildee, Kucinich, and Wu.
Staff present: Linda Castleman, Office Manager; Pam Davidson, Legislative Assistant; Vic Klatt, Education Policy Coordinator; Patrick Lyden, Professional Staff Member; Michael Reynard, Media Assistant; Bob Sweet, Professional Staff Member; Kent Talbert, Professional Staff Member; Christie Wolf, Professional Staff Member; June Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; Alex Nock, Legislative Associate/Education; and Roxana Folescu, Staff Assistant/Education.
Chairman Castle. A quorum being present, thanks to the wonderful gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Kucinich, who has joined us, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth and Families will come to order.
Let me just take a moment to explain what is happening right now on the House floor. We will have a series of votes that are rolled over from last night. Congress was in session until well after midnight yesterday, and we will have to go vote after the one-minute speeches. They are taking place right now, so we are going to be called away here shortly. I think we should get started before we are called away. We probably won't get to your statements until we return from voting.
I will give my opening statement. If Mr. Kucinich has one he is more than welcome to give it, or we can wait for Mr. Kildee to arrive. After our opening statements I think we should be free to proceed with the rest of the hearing. The House is rolling votes, so we should be okay after this first series of votes.
We are holding this hearing today to hear testimony on the National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and National Assessment Governing Board. Under Committee Rule 12(b), opening statements are limited to the chairman and the ranking minority member of the subcommittee. This allows us to hear from the witnesses under the normal five-minute rule and to ask questions under our five-minute rule. With that, I ask unanimous consent for the hearing record to remain open for 14 days to allow members' statements and other documents referenced during the hearing to be submitted to the official hearing record. I will begin with my opening statement.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MICHAEL CASTLE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND FAMILIES
It is a pleasure to welcome all of you here to our hearing today on the reauthorization of the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as NAEP, and the National Assessment Governing Board, known as NAGB.
As many of you know, NAEP and NAGB were reauthorized as part of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994, but their authority has since expired. Today they continue to exist only by virtue of the appropriations process.
For this reason, I am particularly interested in producing legislation this year. As a former governor and a former member of the NAGB Board, I want to ensure that our efforts reflect sound policy that is both workable and beneficial for the people of this country.
From its origin in the early 1970s, NAEP has continued to evolve. Initially it was a long-term trend test. Then in the late 1980s and early 1990s, NAGB was created to establish policy guidelines and NAEP was expanded to include State NAEP assessments, whereby states could see how their state performed relative to other states.
About this same time, more subjects were added to NAEP, and we now have NAEP tests in reading, writing, math, science, civics, history, geography, foreign languages, economics and the arts. Today, NAEP is best known as the "Nation's Report Card," and most students and teachers recognize it as a series of nationwide tests on academic performance in grades 4, 8, and 12.
Before we hear from our witnesses, I would like to point out a few facts. First, the purpose of NAEP is to provide a fair and accurate presentation of educational achievement in reading, writing, and the other subjects, regarding student achievement and citizenship. We need to be ever mindful of this purpose.
As we begin the reauthorization process, there are many issues that we will need to consider. Just a few of them include: One, Independence. NAGB is semi-independent now, but we should seriously consider whether it should be completely independent of the department.
Two, scope of NAEP. We also should consider whether our schools and students would be better served if NAEP were to be more focused on core subject areas such as reading, writing, math and science.
Three, high stakes NAEP. The administration has a proposal to make NAEP a high stakes test. That is, achievement gains on NAEP could result in rewards or sanctions. We should carefully consider if this is the correct policy.
Finally, four, too much testing. Many parents, teachers and administrators complain that too many standardized tests take time away from regular classroom learning. We should consider the extent to which this is a problem, and what role it plays in the decision of states and school districts to drop out of NAEP, some of which we have been reading about in the news recently.
Now, I obviously do not have all the answers to these questions, but I am hopeful that our witnesses can shed some light on these issues. Again, I would like to thank you for joining us, and I will now turn to Mr. Kucinich for an opening statement.
See Appendix A for the Opening Statement of Chairman Michael Castle
Mr. Kucinich. Thank you very much. I know Mr. Kildee will want his statement included in the record.
I think it is important that we have these hearings to do an assessment of those who are doing assessments, and to also reflect on a larger question: Are we becoming a nation of test takers? Are we becoming a nation that puts more emphasis on quantitative assessments as opposed to trying to elevate the qualitative performance of our students?
Chairman Castle. Thank you very much, Dennis.
I think at this point it would be best to break. We have short introductions but we will do it when we return, so it will be fresh in people's minds exactly who you are. We all know who "Checker" Finn is, but exactly who everybody else who is here with us today.
We will then proceed with your statements, and as I said earlier, I think at that point we won't be interrupted again, and I apologize to you now for this current interruption. Unfortunately, the presence of business on the House floor does dominate, so this will be probably literally at least a 40-minute, maybe even a 50-minute break before we resume. So, with that, we stand in recess.
Chairman Castle. We will now reconvene our hearing. Again, I apologize for the delay. The good news is that there should be no more delays before we are able to finish this hearing in its entirety.
We are pleased that Mr. Kildee has also joined us. He has a statement that he may wish to make.
Mr. Kildee. I will submit it for the record. I want to hear from the witnesses.
See Appendix B for the Opening Statement of Representative Dale K. Kildee
Chairman Castle. Very good. We will turn to the witnesses, then, and I think they are familiar to most of the people in this room, and most of them have been through the hearing process before at some time or another. We will take your extensive bios and reduce them to just a small little essence of who you are.
The first witness is Mr. Mark Musick. Mr. Musick is the chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board here in Washington, D.C., has been a board member since NAGB's creation in 1988, and has been appointed by three different Education Secretaries. Mr. Musick is president of the Southern Regional Education Board, which is the nation's first interstate compact for education, to help governmental and education leaders work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region.
Dr. Gary Phillips. Dr. Phillips is the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics here in Washington, D.C. He has been with NCES for 12 years, where he has also overseen the National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP; the National Adult Literacy Studies; and the Third International Math and Science Study. Dr. Phillips was also heavily involved in developing President Clinton's Voluntary National Test Initiative.
Dr. Chester or "Checker" Finn. Dr. Finn is president and trustee of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation here in Washington, D.C. The Fordham Foundation supports research, publications, and action projects of national significance in elementary and secondary education reform. He is also a John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and a former chairman and board member of NAGB. Dr. Finn also served as Assistant Secretary for Research and Improvement at the Department of Education during the Bush Administration.
Mr. Christopher Klicka. Mr. Klicka is the senior counsel for the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Virginia. He is also the executive director of the National Center of Home Education, and has authored numerous books on home school issues.
Finally is Dr. Michael Ward. Dr. Ward is the state superintendent of public schools for North Carolina. Prior to this he served as the executive director of the North Carolina Standards Board for Public School Administration, and has served as the superintendent of Schools for Granville County in North Carolina. Dr. Ward has also worked as a teacher and principal, and was honored as North Carolina's Superintendent of the Year in 1994, and as Granville County's Principal of the Year in 1988.
We welcome each and every one of you to this hearing today. As you probably know, we would ask that you try to limit your oral statement to five minutes. That is designated by that little clock in the center there, which has a green light on four minutes, a yellow light which indicate one minute is left, and then a red light which is a definite movement to try and end your statement. Then we will take questions from the various members on both sides of the aisle in whatever order they might arrive.
I would just like to say up front that because we are dealing with reauthorization, and a reauthorization that has not happened heretofore, and because I am interested in getting that done because of my personal involvement, but more for my desire to improve both testing and the supervision of testing in this country. I personally am very interested in your specific recommendations and comments and reasons for them. I mean, it is fine to go through the history and philosophy of NAGB and NAEP, but I am very interested in the specifics of exactly what it is that we as a committee and we as a Congress should be doing to help in this area.
So, with that, we will turn Mr. Musick, to you for your statement.
STATEMENT OF MR. MARK D. MUSICK, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ASSESSMENT GOVERNING BOARD, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. Musick. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You have my written statement. I will go directly to several points and try to address three of the four points you raised earlier.
I think there are many important things that are clear about NAEP as you think about reauthorization. First, NAEP is a success. In 1969, frankly, no one paid much attention to NAEP, national, regional figures. Today it is on the front pages of newspapers with State NAEP.
State NAEP is a success. You started it as a developmental program. It has moved to an operational program. You should reauthorize it as an operational program, used now in more than 40 states.
The achievement levels are a success. They were controversial from the start. They have caused controversy and consternation with the most comprehensive standard-setting process in America. They are influencing states as states try to figure out the proper standards.
You should reauthorize the achievement levels. We believe that the achievement levels should move from developmental to operational, and we have a plan, and I have suggested it in my written testimony, that Congress would get involved in that step.
The test schedule, you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, the core subjects, the core emphasis. We believe that the test schedule through 2010 does emphasize core subjects. The State NAEP is reading, writing, math and science every four years. If you look at that schedule, while it does include a broad array of subjects, I think you will see a core emphasis. Whether it is exactly the core emphasis you desire is your judgment, of course.
I think it is clear that we need to take actions to help states that want to participate in NAEP, make it easier to do so. It is not yet clear exactly how we do that. The board meets, with that subject on the agenda, tomorrow.
I think it is clear that the inclusion of students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency are a priority for NAEP and for states, and it should be a priority in the reauthorized NAEP.
I think it is clear that the Commissioner of Education Statistics should release NAEP results; the commissioner should release them on the commissioner's stationery, in a format determined by the board and the commissioner.
I think it is clear that there is an appropriate role for the board in the nominating process for board members. This is not only self-serving, or self-promoting. It is what was suggested by the group that recommended this board in 1988.
I think it is clear that board members should be appointed to four-year terms, not three-year terms. Mr. Chairman, you were once on the board. You heard the explanation of plausible values, for example. It didn't sound very plausible to me the first time I heard it. There are things there that have to be learned, and I would argue that a board whose members are well informed and confident in their knowledge and understanding would be a stronger, more independent board.
That brings me to the last thing that is clear. The most important thing that is clear is the first point you mentioned, Mr. Chairman. That is about independence. It is clear that the National Assessment must be buffered from partisan politics, isolated from special interests, and has sufficient resources to do the job and to ensure NAEP's operational accountability. We say that cheap tests, like cheap airplanes, are not a good idea.
Now, the need for independence was clear in 1988. The blue ribbon group that established or recommended to Congress to create this board used the terms "buffered" and "insulated" in its report to Congress. Your legislation talks about independent judgment, free from inappropriate influences and special interests.
What is not so clear is how to do this. It wasn't so clear, entirely clear, to the Congressional Research Service. They said, well, you could make incremental changes. By "incremental" let me emphasize these are not necessarily minor or unimportant changes. They are changes like make the commissioner responsible for issuing the report; give the board policy direction, not policy guidance.
The Congressional Research Service also said you could make sweeping changes, said Congress could make NAEP an independent agency and give the governing board full responsibility for budget, operational and policy decisions.
We now have shared ambiguity. You mentioned earlier, Mr. Chairman, that NAGB is a quasi-independent board. That is a good characterization. We need a dose of clear responsibilities, if you will. We are quasi-independent. We are located in the Department of Education.
Unless some changes are made in the problem of shared ambiguity and weak independence of the board, it will not be less in future years, it will be more. There are two reasons for that. One, it is as good as it is going to get under the secretaries we have had in the 1990s: Dick Riley, former member of the board, very supportive. Lamar Alexander helped create the board, very supportive. We will have other secretaries who will be knowledgeable and skillful; we won't have any that are more knowledgeable and supportive of this board.
Secondly, is high stakes testing, as you also mentioned. We now have the president, Vice President Gore, Governor Bush and the Senate all recommending high stakes use of NAEP. Some of these ideas, Mr. Chairman, will be good; some of them will be not so good. All of these come from elected officials, so they will think all of them are good if they are their ideas, and you will need a strong board to weed out the good and the less good.
Finally, I would say we have not recommended an independent agency. We thought that would be a little presumptuous of us, unless you charged us with doing so. So the recommendations in my written testimony are about what we would call incremental but important changes. I am prepared to talk about the voluntary national test authority the board has been given, and I have included that in my written testimony.
See Appendix C for the Written Testimony of Mr. Mark Musick
Chairman Castle. Thank you very much, Mr. Musick. Next we will here from Dr. Phillips.
STATEMENT OF DR. GARY W. PHILLIPS, ACTING COMMISSIONER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Dr. Phillips. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to start by thanking you for your invitation to testify on the reauthorization of NCES, NAEP and NAGB. Last week you heard testimony on the research authority. Today I will focus on the National Center for Education Statistics. I have provided a copy of the administration's proposal, and I ask that a copy of my written testimony be submitted in the record.
Chairman Castle. Without objection, any written testimony that any of the witnesses have will be accepted for the record, and we appreciate that.
Dr. Phillips. My agency has been authorized by Congress for over 130 years to report on the condition of education in the United States. Currently, we are 117 people conducting over 50 major surveys every year. We report on educational activities from the cradle to the grave. We report on learning starting from birth through early childhood, elementary and secondary education, post-secondary education, and adult education. We also report data on states, districts and schools, and provide educational information on student achievement in other countries.
As a statistical agency, NCES does not set national education policy, but we are the major source of education data used by policy-makers. In fact, we try hard to make sure that our data are relevant to policy-makers and answer the type of questions that they need in order to make informed decisions.
We do not evaluate federal programs, but our data are often used by others to do so. Sometimes our data, for example in NAEP, are used by states to self-evaluate state programs. We do not use our data to hold anyone accountable for anything, but policy-makers often use our data to help them make such decisions. We take very seriously our role to provide scientific data that are objective, timely, nonpartisan, just the facts and nothing but the facts. That is what we do and that is all we do.
During the remainder of this calendar year, NCES has an exciting portfolio of reports that it will release. In August we will be releasing the results of over 30 years of NAEP trend data in reading, math and science. Later this fall we will have our first report on the learning progress of kindergarten children, first ever reported. This will be followed by an international report on four years of progress in math and science in over 40 countries, which is a follow-up to the TIMSS, Third International Math and Science Study. We will also have our 12th annual report on high school dropout and completion rates, and in late fall we will have a second report on what students know and can do in civics.
As you know, the administration has a proposal for the reauthorization of NCES, NAEP and NAGB. The proposal was sent to the committee in the form requested last December. This important legislative proposal would put NCES on par with other major federal statistical agencies.
Under the proposal, NCES would be separated from OERI and elevated within the Department of Education so that the Commissioner of NCES would report directly to the Secretary of Education. This is comparable to the organizational arrangement in all the major statistical agencies, such as the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, et cetera.
Another important aspect of the department's reauthorization proposal is that it makes explicit that the Commissioner of NCES has final authority over the methodology for data collection and over the review and the release of reports. This will help further ensure the continuing independence and reliability of NCES reports.
NCES already uses a very high statistical set of standards in our collection, analysis and reporting of data. The administration proposal makes it explicit that the center would be required to meet the very highest standards of scientific rigor, timeliness, and customer service.
Another part of the proposal would require that our overall advisory committee, called the Advisory Council on Education Statistics, would provide the Congress and the president with an annual report on how well we meet these standards. We look forward to our council producing this report, and will do everything possible to make sure that you have the information you need to evaluate the quality of our work.
Let me conclude by saying that it is an honor for me to have the opportunity to talk about this reauthorization. I look forward to addressing the issues you asked about on NAEP and NAGB in your letter to me. Thank you very much.
See Appendix D for the Written Testimony of Dr. Gary W. Phillips
See Appendix E for the Administration’s Proposal on the Reauthorization of NCES, NAEP, and NAGB
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dr. Phillips.
STATEMENT OF DR. CHESTER E. FINN, JR., PRESIDENT, THOMAS B. FORDHAM FOUNDATION, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Dr. Finn. Mr. Chairman, I would like to invite the subcommittee's attention to the last two pages of my statement, which is a set of principles for reauthorizing OERI, NCES, NAEP and NAGB, signed now by eight people, including a number of former officials of the Department of Education. We are talking here, in this set of principles, about structure above all, and I want to take my five minutes to talk a little bit about structure.
What is under consideration here are what we might call the audit functions of American education, the parts of the federal government that attempt to report, honestly, faithfully and accurately, on how American education is doing, and incidentally on how various federal programs are doing. These are not reform programs. These are not improvement programs. These are not programs intended to change American education. They are intended, rather, to yield accurate information about how American education is doing.
Just as a corporation has an independent auditor to watch over the shoulder of the company treasurer or comptroller, to find out whether the books are in fact in balance and whether the numbers are right, the United States has an education audit function, and it is NCES, it is NAEP, it is NAGB. It is incidentally also, I think, the program evaluation activities by which the federal government tries to find out whether its efforts are succeeding in improving things.
Right now all of these audit functions are lodged within the same executive branch agency that is charged, above all, with operating the improvement programs, the service programs, and the reform programs. My fellow signers of these seven principles and I are of the view, mostly after long experience at the Department of Education, that there is an inherent and fundamental conflict of interest between locating the audit functions in the same place as the improvement functions, between locating the statistical functions in the same agency as the service programs.
We recommend, for the consideration of the Congress, the idea of creating a separate Education Audit Agency for the United States that would have housed within it no service programs, no improvement programs, no reform programs, only information programs; information programs about how American education is doing and about how other programs are doing.
It would, in effect, function as the audit bureau for American education. It would be separate and distinct from the Department of Education. It would be located outside the Department of Education, and the statistical functions of the Department of Education and the program evaluation functions of the Department of Education would move there.
This could be set up in a wide variety of ways. The closest thing we have to a model in our minds of how it ought to work is, frankly, the Federal Reserve System, independent of the direct political control of other agencies and of executive branch officers.
Chairman Castle. Do you want Mr. Greenspan to run it?
Dr. Finn. Mr. Greenspan has been doing a pretty good job in his current job and bringing about a lot of improvement, incidentally, and perhaps a similar audit agency would lead to American education improvement.
This could be structured in a lot of different ways. The crucial point here is that it be as free as possible from the kinds of temptations and incentives that inevitably afflict the operating agencies of the federal government, the improvement agencies of the federal government: the inherent conflict of interest that arises if one agency is evaluating its own programs, the inherent conflicts of interest that arise if the people running for election are also obliged to defend their record while issuing supposedly objective data about how the country has been doing on their watch. It is complicated when those things happen. It needs to be broken out, turned into a separate audit function.
What we have suggested with these seven principles are a way of taking the research functions, the statistics, assessment, and program evaluation functions, and trying to buffer them behind a fire wall of organizational independence that we believe would lead to greater integrity, reliability, credibility, and ultimately utility of these very important data functions. I think we are in agreement that these data functions are important. I think their current structural arrangement cannot work as well as it needs to, and that the best way to fix this is to break them out and give them their own separate existence as an independent agency.
Thank you very much.
See Appendix F for the Written Testimony of Dr. Checker E. Finn, Jr.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dr. Finn.
STATEMENT OF MR. CHRISTOPHER J. KLICKA, ESQ., SENIOR COUNSEL, HOME SCHOOL LEGAL DEFENSE ASSOCIATION, AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR HOME EDUCATION, PURCELLVILLE, VIRGINIA
Mr. Klicka. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity. For 15 years I have represented parents, parents who love their kids, parents who want them to succeed academically. Right now we have approximately 70,000 member families that are part of the Home School Legal Defense.
These families use private tests to determine the progress of their children. They are concerned that a national test will lead to national standards. They like local control. They are afraid that NAEP is beginning to creep into having a more and more significant role in shaping state standards and creating national standards.
There are a number of groups that we have been working together with, who agree with our position, from the Mexican American Legal Defense Association to McGraw Hill Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, Free Congress, many groups who share this concern, that represent grassroots Americans.
The subcommittee certainly is aware that originally in 1963 when the Commissioner of Education decided to collect information on the state of the nation's schools, it was good idea. By 1969, the NAEP was created in order to survey the long-term trends in people's achievement by measuring the progress of sampling students in the nation's schools, primarily in the area of reading, writing, math and science.
But this has changed significantly over the years, particularly with the state assessments, the State NAEP assessments that have been authorized, and this is where one of our major concerns is. We believe that the direction this is leading us, this expansion of NAEP and NAGB over time is leading us into the nationalizing of education testing and standards that will, by default, lead to a national curricula.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report titled "National Assessment of Educational Progress: Background and Reauthorization Issues," education finance specialist Wayne Riddle confirms this direction. He said, "Given the impossibility of modifying NAEP to match the different curricula in various states or local education agencies, states and local education agencies would likely have substantial motivation to modify their curricula to more closely match the NAEP's curricula frameworks." This is one of our bit concerns.
In 1997-98 there was big battle over national testing. President Clinton was trying to get his national test through, and the House and the Senate passed bans on this national test, and it was signed into law in 1998. We are concerned that the NAEP survey, by getting into the business of providing State NAEP assessments, and as more states begin to adopt this assessment in their states, although voluntary at this time, that that will lead to the states adjusting their standards to fit this national NAEP test, and ultimately we are going to undermine what Congress has banned, and it has provided a very clear mandate on not having a national test. Let each state create and use their own assessments, and possibly use private testing as a way to check their state assessment, use private tests that are available.
So we see NAEP beginning to shape test policy in the states through this NAEP state assessment. We did a quick survey of a number of states. In Georgia, the NAEP Coordinator of Testing indicated discussions were taking place about the NAEP state assessment being the primary assessment in the future. In Michigan, the NAEP Coordinator for Michigan Educational Assessment indicated NAEP was used to effect education policy.
When I testified before this committee on June 11,1988, Nancy Doorey, a member of the Delaware State Board of Education, explained that NAEP standards "have become invaluable to state education leaders, who use them to develop and benchmark their own content and performance standards and inform policy decisions."
University of Kansas Professor John Poggio, in a meeting on national testing in 1997, says, "There is a sense, I think we all recognize, that what gets tested is what gets taught." He says, "And you're saying you are not controlling American curriculum." All of us here will sit and tell you what we put on those booklets is what gets the attention of the teachers. You are altering what is going to be taught. You need to be aware of that.
So the point is simply that we are concerned that NAEP is slowly creeping into this national test, and what we would recommend to this subcommittee is to adopt amendments that would end the state assessment and return to the original intent of NAEP to have this long-term trend assessment that would look at reading, writing, math and science, and not get into the values-laden areas of these other subjects, and to reduce NAEP to I think what, you know, the original role it was intended to be.
Thank you very much.
See Appendix G for the Written Testimony of Mr. Christopher Klicka
Chairman Castle. Thank you very much, Mr. Klicka.
Dr. Ward will be our final speaker.
STATEMENT OF DR. MICHAEL E. WARD, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Dr. Ward. Thank you, Chairman Castle, members of the subcommittee. I am appreciative of the opportunity to offer a state perspective on the reauthorization of the National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the National Assessment Governing Board. It is an honor to be asked to be here with you today.
NAEP has long been a valuable tool in North Carolina's efforts to improve schools and student performance. We have built our own curriculum in North Carolina. It is a standard course of study and our own aligned testing program. NAEP provides the only continuous and reliable nationwide measure available for us to provide our citizens a barometer to gauge the success of the state's improvement efforts. NAEP assessments also show how well our students perform compared to other students across the nation. We report these results to our citizens, to the state, to the legislature, and to local school systems.
During the past few years, North Carolina schools have made significant progress. In 1996 it was reported that our fourth graders had tied Texas for the nation's largest gain since 1992. On the NAEP math assessment, our eighth graders had the second highest gains in the nation since 1992 and the highest since 1990. In 1998 the NAEP reading results in fourth and eighth grade showed North Carolina students performing above the national average.
Education Week's "Quality Counts" report described North Carolina as one of only two states in the nation to develop a comprehensive school accountability system. The National Education Goals panel has cited North Carolina, again along with Texas, as a national leader in education improvement.
In my testimony today I want to highlight key federal functions that I believe must be maintained and enhanced through reauthorization, and reinforce them on the basis of the value that North Carolina has received from NAEP and the work of NAGB and NCES.
North Carolina has benefited tremendously from having an independent measure of state performance through NAEP, and having trend lines of performance in subjects such as math and reading. NAEP at the national and the state levels must be maintained. It must be well financed. It must have a good, consistent schedule so that as we plan assessments for our state, we can be certain they are being well coordinated with the NAEP testing.
I would like to respectfully recommend action on a few key functions and reflect on how some of these functions directly affect us in North Carolina. First recommendation is to increase the investment in and strength of federal collection, evaluation and dissemination of data on a broad range of educational issues. Increasing the timeliness of NAEP reporting and establishing a 10-year schedule for NAEP assessments would be very helpful to us in North Carolina for planning and reporting results on a regular basis.
We continue to have concerns about the disconnect between NAEP achievement levels, in particular "proficient", with what the general public perceives as "grade" level work. They are not the same, and clarification of the issue in the larger community is needed.
Second recommendation I would like to make is to continue NAGB as an independent, bipartisan body with authority for NAEP policy decisions, while maintaining authority for implementation with NCES. It is critical that NAEP results be reported in an unbiased fashion and designed and managed by an independent body.
My third recommendation is to maintain NAEP participation as voluntary and to ensure it is not required for participation in any other federal programs. In no way should NAEP participation be tied to other federal programs. If anything, schools participating in NAEP assessments should be given financial incentives for doing so.
Recommendation four, we need to explain the purpose of NAEP to the public and ensure that NAEP is not used for program evaluation or high stakes decisions that could jeopardize its credibility and precision. NAEP results should not be used for high stakes decisions. Utilizing NAEP results for this purpose can have unintended consequences. Other assessments may be more appropriate for use in high stakes determinations.
Recommendation five, continue NCES and NAGB efforts to establish valid links between NAEP and other assessments such as TIMSS, combine national and State NAEP samples, provide states easier access, and take advantage of incorporating innovative state assessments.
Recommendation six, encourage efforts by NCES and NAGB to expand NAEP below the state level without sacrificing reliability, validity and precision. District level data could be particularly useful to us.
Recommendation seven, continue the federal initiative to develop voluntary national individual tests in reading at grade four and math at grade eight. We can use that kind of assessment.
Finally, recommendation eight, expand NAEP's efforts to be more inclusive. NAEP, NCES and NAGB need to assist states in finding ways to accommodate all students in all assessments.
Once again, I appreciate the opportunity to testify. NCES, NAGB and NAEP are all extremely important to our nation and our state.
I would be pleased now to respond to any questions you may have.
See Appendix H for the Written Testimony of Dr. Michael E. Ward
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dr. Ward.
You guys really came through. I asked you to comment on how you would change NAGB, and you all did. That usually doesn't happen. Usually witnesses don't even talk about what I ask them to talk about, and I truly appreciate that. In fact, I am almost overwhelmed by where to begin with questions on this, because I have infinitely more questions than we could ever get through in the course of this hearing. But I guess there are some specific points. So with that, I will yield myself the customary five minutes and start asking questions.
Let me, some of this is going to be political, and it isn't even necessarily my political message. It may be somebody else's political message. But I am worried about getting things done here, and sometimes you run into things that make it difficult to get it done. You all may be idealistic in terms of how to make this perfect.
By the way, I didn't hear any of you say get rid of NAEP and NAGB. It was a question of restructuring parts of government, including research and how far we carry the individual testing and various other things that were suggested, so we are within certain bounds. Pretty wide bounds, a pretty big field, but we are within certain bounds at least.
But let me ask you, Mr. Musick, and I may limit my questions to one at a time, because if we go through everybody answering every question, we will never be able to get it all done. On the voluntary national test, I don't totally understand this. This is something Mr. Schaffer might be even more interested in than I am, but it has been a political problem here and I think it has been a political problem for NAGB.
One of my arguments when I was on NAGB, as you may recall, is that while it is nice to be independent, I thought that it was so independent that we didn't have a lot of political sense in terms of what we were doing, so that independence can be a little bit of a liability sometimes. But my understanding is that the administration, in its proposal submitted to us, has proposed to individualize, and as I understand it, individualize voluntary national tests, despite overwhelming opposition by Congress, particularly on the Republican side.
Now, you know, maybe their view is this is a political issue and we should go forward with it, but my view is, this sort of hurts NAGB, having this little assignment. My question about it because there is basically political opposition -- you can't go about the pure statistical business of developing tests and just going from there. How many years has NAGB been in charge of voluntary national test development activities, and when do you expect to end your work? What is the amount of money that is being spent on these activities now? In other words, where are we going with respect to this issue at this point? I don't expect you to comment on the political side of it, but I am just doing that as background for these questions.
Mr. Musick. Mr. Chairman, I will try to respond very directly. I am going to bring in a couple other points which I think you would find relevant, because I did have four things which I think are also clear about the voluntary national test (VNT), and two of them address your point.
First of all, let me say up front, the board was given the VNT. The board did not ask for the VNT. We were given this when Congress and the president got in a twist, and one observer said we were handed a hand grenade with the pin partially pulled, and that is what we were dealing with.
It is also clear that the directions from the legislation passed by Congress have not always been clear, so we have had to read tea leaves, if you will. We have what the committee actions were, we have what the chairs of committees said. Then we have what was passed in Congress and signed by the president.
It is also clear that, to answer one of your questions very specifically, the board has done all we believe we can do. We will have completed all we believe we can do in the year 2000 under the limited test development authorization Congress has given us. So the contract expires this fall. Unless you do something else, unless you give us more specific directions, we will essentially come to an end of that development.
I would say, and you are right, you once said when I told you years ago that the board is being accused of being too political, you said, you slapped your knee and said, "I've never been involved with a less political group, practically." But I would say that it is clear to me…
Chairman Castle. A more politically inept group?
Mr. Musick. Inept, excuse me. Selective memory.
It is clear to me that the proposed voluntary national test controversies should not be linked to the NAEP reauthorization. Don't punish NAEP for any problems you have with the board, how it dealt with this live hand grenade. We were asked to do this, controversial from day one…
Chairman Castle. Let me tell you, Mark, I want to go on to others, I didn't take that as exactly a rousing endorsement for continuing your jurisdiction over the voluntary national test, but we will get into that later.
I want to turn to Dr. Finn for a minute. I think I understand what you are saying here, and as a matter of fact I think I find some accord with that, but I don't think we are going to have total accord here in the committee in terms of the independent agency, what you called a Federal Reserve type thing, as a possible model for it.
But, as I understand it, you are talking about this handling everything from education research to the whole testing issue. All of this would be all under that format, and this would be a significant agency, if it is an independent entity, would be a very significant agency in terms of what it does. Is that correct?
Dr. Finn. Yes, sir. Our recommendation really is that it perform five things. One is research, but not improvement from OERI, the pure research as opposed to the school improvement activities. Secondly, NCES. Thirdly, NAEP. Fourthly, NAGB.
Fifth, program evaluation functions of the Department of Education which are not in OERI at all today, but are in something called the Planning and Evaluation Service, by which the Congress frequently asks the department to evaluate its own programs, Title I programs, things like that. Typically, those responsibilities end up being assigned to the same part of the department that is in charge of policy-making for the department. We are suggesting that an independent audit function would be a far more objective and less conflicted place to put them.
So, yes, sir, this would be a substantial, if all five of those activities went there, it would be substantial.
Chairman Castle. I don't believe that red light is on. I think there is something wrong with the light system here.
Dr. Finn. I didn't take five minutes.
Chairman Castle. No, but I am going to give you, let's say, one minute to close the debate on this subject, and the debate question before you is, how will the changes which you are proposing over the existing OERI, and the structure of NAEP and NAGB under that and all that business, actually help ultimately young people be educated better? Nobody really cares about the bureaucracy that we set up here. What we care about is doing better at home. How will this ultimately benefit the kids at home?
Dr. Finn. It hinges, Mr. Chairman, on a belief that good accurate information has its own dynamism, and that good accurate information that people believe and trust feeds back through parents, through policy-makers, through teachers, through school administrators, and is used to calibrate their own actions, their own efforts, their own program changes. It is not per se a reform program. It is, however, an information program that is designed to inform those who want to change.
So accurate information about student achievement, for example, feeds back to governors and chief state school officers, in effect auditing how North Carolina is doing, not just taking North Carolina's word for it. This enables policy-makers in North Carolina to know whether their efforts are succeeding or not, and enables them to make mid-course corrections if they are not. Sure, they could study their own performance, and they do study their own performance, but they are going to be a lot surer about what they are doing if they have someone outside looking at it as well.
Chairman Castle. Okay. Thank you. I am going to ask one more question. Then I will turn to Mr. Kildee if he is here, Mr. Schaffer if he is not.
Mr. Klicka, I want to ask you, I am playing sort of devil's advocate here because I am not sure about this question myself, but you indicated that the NAEP test should be limited to sort of long-term trends and shouldn't be too individualized with respect to I guess state school districts, schools, individuals, and I can understand that argument. But then you stated that we should use private tests for this.
I am not a test expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I wonder about private tests, too. I assume by "private" you mean anything other than a federal government administered tests, and you worry about a national curricula, which I think is a passé issue, frankly. I don't think that is going to happen under any administration or anything else. I think everyone has been sort of scared off of that issue.
But my judgment is, and I am not defending NAEP or NAGB in spite of the fact I was pleased to serve on their board, at all when I say any of this, but I do know that they spent a great deal of time preparing their tests or whatever. But some of those so-called private tests are I think a little marginal, too, in terms of how they are prepared, how they are hustled and sold at the various school districts or whatever. I don't know if I have that much confidence in how they work, either. I am not too sure in some ways that NAEP isn't even more pure than some of those tests.
I am not expecting you to agree with me, but I would be curious as to your thoughts on that. I mean, I don't quickly fall back on those private tests as being the all to end all, is my bottom line, based on what I have seen. I think they need to be questioned also. Do you agree with that at all, or do you feel that is not an accurate statement?
Mr. Klicka. Ultimately the issue for us, and many parents is kind of nationalization of education and education standards. We would like much better the states to create their own state assessments, which they have, and use those to measure the child's progress. If there is a need to, kind of to use Checker's term, of auditing, then could not the standardized achievement tests that are available through myriads of companies be adopted by a state to periodically just give, just to check the results of the state assessment to see how accurate they are?
I am not advocating any particular test. The home schoolers have used the national standardized achievement tests for years without any problem, without any feeling of concern of bias. We actually, I actually worked with the Psychological Corporation on a version of the SAT, I think it was the SAT-9 test, where they were open to a whole panel of us to look at the questions to make sure that these were questions that were legitimate, that weren't biased in certain beliefs, and so forth.
So I guess I have faith in private enterprise more than I have faith in any kind of federal academic elite trying to come up with the ideal test, which as I showed from my testimony and the written testimony, time and time again state officials testify to how they are relying on NAEP to mold and shape their own testing policy and ultimately their own curricula. So that was why…
Chairman Castle. Well, I mean I tend to agree with a lot of what you are saying. The national curricula, even national standards, all these things concern me a little bit, too. But I am not totally sure, I am not convinced that this private enterprise is working that well with testing, or that NAEP is that bad a product.
I mean, I will tell you I was the Governor of Delaware for a while, and we developed some fairly strong standards and very strong testing mechanisms to back those up. So people took our tests and in fact they didn't do very well. In fact, they did very poorly, I mean like 18 percent did it at the grade level or whatever the heck it was.
Then we took, I guess it was NAEP tests, we took some other set of tests, but it was a test on which you could compare with other states. There as another state, I don't remember precisely what it was, I am sure some people down here do, but there were some other states, like Georgia, in which they took it, and they were getting like 80 percent of their students were passing on their basic state test, and they had a very low percentage passing the national test, and we had a much higher percentage passing that.
Well, that was very important information to me as a governor. I went from thinking we were total failures to realizing, gee, maybe we aren't doing bad on a state-by-state comparison. So that business of some comparison beyond the state lines, I don't know who should do it, but some comparison beyond the state lines is something which I found was a very good tool. It was good for me to know how we are doing. It is like anyone else. You are told you are not doing as well as the next state you are going to fight like heck to do better. So that was a very helpful tool.
In all of this I wouldn't want to throw away the baby with the bath water type thing, is the point that I am making. So I just want to make sure we get all that worked out as far as testing is concerned, so that is the reason I raised this question.
But let me turn to Mr. Schaffer for some of his questions. Then we will have another round here.
Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My first question, Dr. Phillips, goes back to the report "Filling The Gaps," another review of data on education in grades K through 12 that was published back in 1992. It talks about trying to come up with a definition and measurement of teacher quality, characteristics and quality. Are you familiar with that report? Do you know what I am referring to?
Dr. Phillips. Yes.
Mr. Schaffer. I am quoting from the report. It says, "In order to define and measure quality, characteristics of qualifications of teachers must be related to growth in student achievement." I am curious about that, because attaching a measurement of teacher quality to the achievement of students seems to me to be a really dumb idea. Maybe I am wrong. If I am, I would appreciate being corrected.
Dr. Phillips. Well, I have to admit, you know, the issues of teacher quality are controversial and are not solved. You may know that, based on the passage of the Higher Education Amendments, we are or we did work to develop a measure that will be used for teacher preparation programs, to look at the quality of teacher preparation programs, but I can't give you a definitive answer as to what the best measure of teacher quality is. You picked one report. You could have picked another one with a different concept.
Mr. Schaffer. Well, just in general terms, this was a report going back eight years. What else can you tell me about efforts to measure this teacher or to get at this teacher quality question?
Dr. Phillips. What I am saying is that we don't currently have good measures of teacher quality, and it is…
Mr. Schaffer. Is there a continuing effort to find one?
Dr. Phillips. There is a continuing effort, and we do continue to do surveys and collect data.
Mr. Schaffer. Like what?
Dr. Phillips. One of the big research and development efforts that we're trying to accomplish, or trying to implement, is looking at instructional practices in classrooms, and possibly using videos as a way to get an independent, objective measure of how well teachers are teaching and how well students are learning, but that is in a real elementary development stage.
Mr. Schaffer. Okay. It is in the development stage right now?
Dr. Phillips. Yes.
Mr. Schaffer. How much time are we spending on this? I mean, give me a sense of what goes on in the agency over there?
Dr. Phillips. We have a contract with an organization called the Education Statistical Services Institute. It is sort of like a research and development center, and their ongoing research and development project, the biggest one they have, is to try to get a better fix on what is good instructional practices. We do not have good measures of that, because we have indirect measures mostly through surveys and pencil and paper. So we are trying to improve the state of the art and get a more objective, valid measure of it.
Mr. Schaffer. Now, to your knowledge, has the National Center amended or changed or backed away from this statement, that quality characteristics and qualifications of teachers must be related to growth and student achievement? Is that still an assumption?
Dr. Phillips. It is in very rudimentary stages. In fact, they are right now trying to develop a plan of action, and hire staff, and things like that. So it is very elementary, very rudimentary.
Mr. Schaffer. Let me ask another question. An increasing number of states are dropping out of the State NAEP, including Pennsylvania and Delaware, just coincidentally, despite the major push by NCES and NAGB through the All States 2000 Program for their participation. Why is that?
Dr. Phillips. It varies from state to state, but most of it has to do, for example, in Florida, it conflicted with their state testing program. They were going to state testing program at exactly the same time. But in most states, there is a state commitment, but when you get down to the district and school level, one of our rules that you have to have at least 70 percent of the schools that are originally sampled. If you cannot get that, then you cannot participate. In the vast majority of those states, that's where the problem is.
Our efforts in the future are going to be targeted with help from the National Assessment Governing Board to the districts and the schools, in trying to find ways of getting them to want to participate. As you know, by law, we cannot give out information on schools, and so the schools do not really get anything back. So we are trying to see if there is some way we can give them something to make them want to participate.
Mr. Schaffer. Do you think the fact that NAEP is not allowed to align itself with the state or local curriculum has something to do with the resistance that you are seeing?
Dr. Phillips. I do not think it does. Most people agree that NAEP does not align itself with any particular curriculum and people tend to like that because it gives you a national benchmark. If you want to a test that is aligned with your own state curriculum, then you develop that yourself.
Mr. Schaffer. How much money was spent on the All States 2000 Program?
Dr. Phillips. Maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars. I do not have those exact numbers. I can certainly get them for you.
Mr. Schaffer. Well, are there funds other than federal funds that are devoted to that project?
Dr. Phillips. No. We use just funds allocated by Congress.
Mr. Schaffer. Can I ask just one more follow-up question, Mr. Chairman?
Chairman Castle. Sure.
Mr. Schaffer. The department has proposed a state recognition and reward program to reward states based on State NAEP. Making NAEP into a high-stakes test, obviously will impact NAEP's purpose and uses and operation ability. Was NCES or NAGB consulted on this proposal?
Dr. Phillips. No, we were not. But that is not unusual. The department often develops proposals that are not vetted. I certainly knew that something like that was going on. The exact details I was not really a party to, and I do not believe NAGB was either.
Mr. Musick. The Governing Board was not consulted either.
Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Mr. Schaffer. I am going to ask a few more questions if I may.
Let me just ask Dr. Ward one question, and then I want to get back to Dr. Phillips on something else. That is, tell me about North Carolina's usage of the NAEP tests? I mean, how do you view the NAEP tests in terms of other testing that you use, how the schools respond to it? Is it positive? I would like to get the local flavor of how you view what is happening with NAEP.
Dr. Ward. NAEP's been awfully valuable to us in North Carolina, because we have built a state curriculum using national standards from organizations like the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and other folks who help us in the process of building those standards. We have got our own curriculum, and we think as an element of fairness, it is important to have a testing program that aligns well with that curriculum. North Carolina teachers built a North Carolina curriculum for North Carolina students. We built a North Carolina testing program to go with it. That gives us a gauge of how students are faring in that curriculum, but as has been suggested earlier, you need an audit of how that gauge of progress compares to what's happening at a national level, and NAEP provides us that.
NAEP, unlike privately developed assessments, as administered in a similar format across the states, it provides a reasonable apples-to-apples comparison of our progress against the progress in other states, so it winds up being the one gauge in North Carolina that gives us that apples-to-apples comparison with what is happening elsewhere in the nation, the only gauge that does that.
So it is particularly useful to us. It has been the gauge by which North Carolina has been able to demonstrate over the decade of the '90s, that our youngsters are performing in the middle of the pack nationally, not trailing the nation as some measures would suggest, that are not administered in a similar format. So it encourages our folks. It gives us a reasonable benchmark of what we are doing compared to other states in the nation, and we think it is a good model. The idea of adopting NAEP, as somehow that being a bad thing to do is kind of strange to us. If you have a good assessment, you ought to go out and use it, and we have chosen to use it.
Chairman Castle. Well, if all of this is true, and Dr. Phillips answers this and I want to ask a different question, but I want to ask you first, Mr. Musick, briefly, if you could, why I did not know Pennsylvania dropped out? Why Delaware and Pennsylvania and maybe other states are not taking the NAEP tests?
I also hear there is too much testing going on. That is one of the reasons I hear, that there is just too much testing, the kids are being asked to do too much the teachers are complaining they do not have time to teach. What is the story here? I mean, are we losing forward thrust with respect to NAEP tests? Is this going to make it almost impossible to continue in any kind of a national model? I need to go to other questions, so please try to be brief.
Mr. Musick. I think the answer is no. Remember, we have more than 40 states participating in State NAEP. We did have eight states that signed up, seven or eight, and they did not make the 70 percent sample. Delaware was one of those. The Commissioner of Education in Delaware will be before our board tomorrow to talk about some of the problems. States have high-stakes testing that they put ahead of NAEP, and so when NAEP wants to test in Florida the week before F-CAT, the Florida test, Florida schools say no. So legitimately they say no. The other problem is, schools, as Gary Phillips said, do not get anything from NAEP. So the board will be discussing tomorrow how we can help states make it easier for schools to be involved -- give them something. Governor Engler gave the schools $1,000 in Michigan to participate. We do not know whether that is the answer or not, but governors and chiefs have taken extraordinary measures to help encourage schools to participate.
Chairman Castle. I wonder if Governor Engler would give Delaware schools $1,000 each to participate, Mr. Kildee. That is a nice suggestion.
So, based on articles I am reading, this is something to be very aware of and alert to.
Dr. Ward. Yes. We are concerned, but again, more than 40 states are still participating.
Chairman Castle. I understand. But, I mean, you have to look at trend lines sometimes, not just where you are.
Dr. Ward. Right.
Chairman Castle. Let me ask this question. Dr. Finn hit on this, and I want to be fair in what I am going to say in the basis of this question, but I would really be interested in answers. Here is why, let me present the background.
We are in an election year. Half the room thinks that one person is going to be elected; the other half thinks that the other person is going to be elected. Half this room is going to be wrong. None of us know what the answer is to that, so we can really sort of clean the chalkboard here and move forward with maybe some real positive changes.
I, for one, and I am not an expert; do not know as much as any of you, or maybe even Mr. Schaffer and Mr. Kildee, much less the staff up here, but from my watching of OERI -- this is not being critical of the people at OERI at all or any of their methodologies or anything like that -- but just with the basic structure, the way we are doing education research in this country, and to some degree more focus on that, but to some degree the function of statistics, and NAEP comes under that a little bit too, I think is at least in question, and maybe very suspect, frankly. I mean, there has been literally thousands of tests on reading, and we seem to come back to the same premise.
Somehow or other and we were discussing this yesterday in a meeting that we had, I understand scientific research. I understand the improvements. I am not as sure I understand educational research, which has a much more human aspect to it, quite as well, or how positive it really is. I tend to agree with Dr. Finn in his statement or principles here, not necessarily wholeheartedly, and I sure as heck would not name it with the word "audit" in it or whatever the heck these bureaucrats concocted. Excuse me, former bureaucrats concocted. But the essence of all of that does make some sense to me, and it is something that I am sort of advocating, to make all of this independent, to make it stronger, to give real judgment to it. So you are not answering directly to somebody.
On the other hand, I worry about the NAGB problem, that is, you become too apolitical and you are not tied in enough to be relevant or meaningful.
So with that in mind, I would like to hear from you, Mr. Musick and from Dr. Phillips. No complaints about anything that has happened now. I do not mean to pick on the labs, the centers or OERI or anybody. But just what is the best structure to do this in for the future of American education and their children? I would like to hear the two of you comment on that. We are reauthorizing OERI, hopefully, this year, and all of these things are under consideration, and I would just like to hear your points of view on it.
Dr. Phillips. Well, let me say I am a little uncomfortable commenting on OERI, because it is outside of my authority. I work at NCES. For NCES, I think it would be a little bit out of whack with other statistical agencies in the government to have them outside of the department. They are all, as far as I know, within a department. The Census Bureau is in the Department of Commerce, for example. They work very nicely, and any issues about independence or objectivity are solved through authorizing language, and departments respect, as does the Department of Education, the independence and objectivity of the statistical agency. It is just sort of widely known that you do not mess with them, and that they are objective, and their job is to report the facts. So I do not personally see a need to have NCES outside of the Department of Education.
Chairman Castle. Mr. Musick.
Mr. Musick. I think for the Governing Board and I would not pretend to speak for OERI and I apologize for that, but that would be, I think, irresponsible to do that. I think the Governing Board needs to be more than quasi-independent, as you described it earlier. I think there is nothing more important about educational research than research about student achievement, and NAEP needs to be moving in a way that makes its results more accessible, if you will. Then finally, I think there is probably nothing more powerful than releasing results to the public. As Checker (Finn) said earlier, I would urge you, and you are going to say this sounds irresponsible, we should be spending more money on NAEP to release more NAEP tests, put them before the American people. Let them see what we are asking 8th graders to do in mathematics. Do it year after year, and it will not take many years until we will decide whether these are the kinds of things we want our 8th graders to know in math, and whether these are appropriate for our nation and for our states.
Chairman Castle. I agree with that last statement, by the way. I am a little disappointed we did not extract more from you guys on OERI, but I do agree with that last statement that you made about the greater publication of all of this. I think it would be very helpful.
Let me turn to Mr. Kildee.
Mr. Kildee. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for leaving, but I met with some of the customers of education, and I had promised them for a long time to do that, so I had to step out for that.
Several years ago one of my priest friends was learning how to fly a plane, and he was learning how to land at night. His instructor said, "When you land at night, turn your landing lights on." My priest friend said, "Well, what if I don't like what I see?" The instructor said, "Well, turn them off then." I do not think we learn to turn the lights off. We want to know what is there, and I think it is very important that we do have that knowledge.
Checker (Finn), you and I have worked together for many, many years. We have not always agreed, but we have agreed on a lot of things too, and I think we have accomplished some things together too.
Dr. Finn. Yes, sir.
Mr. Kildee. It is always good to have you here, because you certainly bring a good deal of experience and wisdom to this whole field.
You call for the separation of the statistical resources assessment and dissemination activities from the Department of Education. Yet, one of our most reliable statistical agencies in the government is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is within the Department of Labor. Can we not fashion some type of autonomy within the department with these responsibilities, and make sure that they will have the credibility, objectivity of an agency like the BLS?
Dr. Finn. That is a very good question, Mr. Kildee, and if I were confident that we could do this within the Department of Education, I would not be recommending the separation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics benefits, first of all, from many years of kind of culture and tradition of independence within the agency. It used to be said, I do not know if this is still true; maybe Gary (Phillips) knows if this is still true, that on the day that the unemployment rate is being released, neither the secretary nor the White House is given the number until an hour before it is released by the commissioner. The secretary is not even told what is going to say, let alone the secretary's public affairs office, determining who is going to say what at the release moment, which is in fact the way education statistics are released mostly in this country today. The secretary's public affairs office decides who is going to say what and what the spin is going to be. That does not happen at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I am not quite sure how they were blessed with not having that problem. The Census Bureau is of course cut up in all sorts of issues about what questions they ought to ask and what methods they ought to use, but I do not think anybody has ever challenged the way in which the data are presented, the way in which the data are released, the way in which the data are spun.
We do not have that at the Department of Education. We have not had it at the Department of Education for the 20 years of the existence of the Department of Education. We have not had it under Democrats. We have not had it under Republicans. I do not know whether it can be captured, you know, a place which has not had it, have it imposed in some way, through some mechanism or structure or legislative language that I cannot myself imagine.
So none of the planners of this little statement that I have submitted is thrilled to be recommending the creation of another education agency. Bill Bennett looked at me and said, "Do we have to create another one? Isn't there a way of doing this within the Department of Education?" I said, "I do not know what it is." I sincerely do not. I am not sure it can be.
Mr. Kildee. Well, if the chairman and I were to, and we were discussing this among ourselves recently, if we could fashion something, I just hate to see all these separate agencies out there, that is one of the reasons. But if we could fashion something that would have the autonomy, have the credibility, objectivity of the BLS, you would not find that terribly offensive, would you?
Dr. Finn. No, sir. Just that I lack your confidence or optimism that it can be done.
Mr. Kildee. Well, you know, Congress fashions the law and the Executive Branch carries out the laws. We can be pretty strict in how we craft this, and I think that the chairman and I have been discussing this around a bit anyway, and I think you do want to make sure that any statistic, any assessment, any of these things, you know, are not going to be fashioned by someone who might have another agenda, right, no matter who it may be. I have served with every Secretary of Education, because I cast a vote to create the department when I first came down here. So I think, you know, we can go back and reexamine how we structure that department, and maybe try to model something on the BLS within the department.
Anyone else have any comment on this? I think that is all my questions, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Mr. Kildee. Mr. Schaffer, would you like to ask more questions, sir?
Mr. Schaffer. I do have a couple more. First let me preface it just by my philosophy on education is one that very much favors a free-market approach to learning in America. I am against government monopoly schooling, which is what I think our system has evolved into to some extent. From that perspective, testing has almost become a replacement for what occurs in the free market, where people shop and people compare and people become proficient at determining the terms of quality. When we suppress free-market activities, parents from being treated like customers, then you need the government to measure itself.
So, Dr. Finn, I am intrigued by the idea of a separate, well, at least a separate panel to measure success in education, whether it is located in the department or some other department. You know, from my perspective, it still represents the government measuring itself for a function that it has commandeered at the federal level, pretty much from all 50 states. We would like to pretend that there is a great level of autonomy. There is some. We elect school board members to do something. According to our accountability assessments, they tell us that they are doing just what we want them to here in Washington, and that is nice.
But as a parent, I have got 5 kids. I read these assessments from the perspective as a policy-maker, which helps me figure out how to help distribute the cash and set priorities, but from the perspective of the person who really matters, which is me, the dad, who cares? I mean, this stuff does not tell me anything. If it did, what could I do with it? I cannot pick a better school in my neighborhood or the one across town. It does not really arm me with the kind things I need to make intelligent choices about school board members. I rely on other methods of assessment.
I would like you to speak to that. The importance if autonomy is certainly clear, and we all understand that from one perspective as policy-makers, but from the perspective of the people who are footing the bill on this, my next-door neighbor, and the one across the street, and folks like that does this have any real relevance to them?
Dr. Finn. I think, to be truthful, that it is hard to make any government statistics function real relevant to the man on the street or to the dad across the street. These are not sources of retail value for voters, taxpayers and parents. Especially the kind that comes from the national level. Nor do statistics per se fix problems. Knowing that you have a fever does not make you healthier. It might, however, give you reason to believe you got to get to the doctor. It is not, however, a therapy. It is merely an indicator of illness.
The kind of data we are talking about is equivalent to a thermometer reading on how education is doing at a kind of macro level, which may be a state, it may be the whole country, it may be all fourth grade girls, it may be all eighth grade science students.
I think this kind of information is extremely helpful to Governor Owens and Commissioner Maloney. I think this kind of information is helpful to North Carolina. I think information can be helpful to federal policy makers, seeking to decide whether Title I ought to emphasize reading, or Title I ought to emphasize math. It might be good to know in which subject are kids doing better, as between those two subjects. But I do not think I can give you any real comfort level that in your role as a dad these data are going to do you a lot of direct good.
Mr. Schaffer. That really states what I was getting at, because I think in the analogies we use of comparable organizations of independent measurement, whether it is the, what was it?
Chairman Castle. The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Mr. Schaffer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve Board analogy makes more sense, because that is kind of private, really. These are private bankers who are part of an organization that are given some official status and authority in that they can change the value of money, tax us effectively, without any representation.
Now, the reason that seems to work on some occasions for economics is because they have their own selfish personal interest at stake. That is not a bad thing. I think that is good. That is just what Adam Smith said was essential for a functioning capitalist free-market economy. I think we need to try to duplicate that with respect to testing our education system as well. It should be an independent board of people who have some self-interest in seeing schools thrive and succeed, and willing to insist on a vigorous critical measurement system that really tells us whether we are doing the job or not. It does not erase baselines and move the goalpost every few years and when we do not like the answers. So I like the Federal Reserve Board notion of people who really are independent of the government and do not rely on it. I do not know if it is possible to accomplish that. I hope it is. I hope we can work together on it.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Mr. Schaffer.
Mr. Schaffer. No further questions. Your witness, your Honor.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, sir. We are trying to wind down this trial. I am only going to ask one more question, and I sort of asked it before of Dr. Ward, but I want to ask in a little more detail.
From your experience as an administrator, and your experience primarily in North Carolina, maybe you can comment on other states too, I do not know, first of all, how do you get your results? You get NAEP results, the fourth grade math test, and you get NAEP results on that, you get a statewide result. Do you get a district result too?
Dr. Ward. No.
Chairman Castle. Just a statewide result.
Dr. Ward. We get statewide results, and would find district level results to be very useful.
Chairman Castle. You do get district level results?
Dr. Ward. No, we would…
Chairman Castle. You would? You do not get them.
Dr. Ward. …find district level results…
Chairman Castle. When you get the statewide results let us say you get them. What happens next? I mean, obviously, you probably compare yourself to other states right away and say, "Gee, we did well or did not do well", and that is the end of it? You issue a press release if you did well and you do not if you did not do well or whatever? Or do you actually look at it in terms of, "Well, we did not do as well as we wanted to. We need to look at our teaching methodologies and what we are doing with our teachers, or look at our standards, our curriculum?"' You have mentioned things that are positive in North Carolina that have been done with respect to some of these areas, but I am not sure if they totally tie in to what happened on NAEP tests or not, or they are just totally unrelated one to the other. Do the NAEP tests serve any real benefit, other than just being a barometer of where you are at that particular time on a particular subject in a particular class?
Dr. Ward. Actually, they serve multiple purposes. First of all, we do get that benchmarking that gives us a sense of how we are faring compared to the rest of the nation, and that is useful information for us, as I indicated a while ago. It gives us that one apples-to-apples basis for comparison with national progress that we need since we use an internal state-testing program.
But the other thing that it does is it gives us a chance to chart our own progress. It is not just comparing our performance to that of the rest of the nation. It is also comparing our performance to our previous personal best, and to that extent, it has helped us to serve to validate some of the investments we have made and some of the steps we have taken over the past several years.
Chairman Castle. So that is an affirmation. But it does not cause you to actually change it, per se?
Dr. Ward. No, we are not rewriting, well, since our trend lines have been upward over the past few years, we have tended to believe that it validates the direction in which we have been headed, but it does not send us scurrying to rewrite curricula.
Chairman Castle. Or on the contrary side of it, if your results were going down, it would give you pause to think should we be changing something? So there might be some long-term effect in terms of that. Is that correct?
Dr. Ward. It would give us cause, I believe, to examine what we are doing. It would give us cause to think about curriculum and delivery, but not in real specific ways that link back to the specific items on the test, kind of a general gauge of whether or not the overall curriculum is working and how well it is matching up with our own testing program.
Chairman Castle. Let me ask Mr. Musick a final question. Can a state if they wanted to, get district results, or is that not ever released in that form? I cannot remember.
Mr. Musick. You have, Roy, make sure I am right about this, Congress has authorized below-state results, so for districts to do that though, it is a cost item, they have to pay for it and it is a matter of over-sampling. We actually have a half dozen cases in America where the NAEP sampling yields statistics at the district level, and we are involved in some debate about who decides whether those results are available. But as Dr. Ward says, a number of states have indicated interest in district-level results.
Chairman Castle. But for the most part it does not happen now?
Mr. Musick. No, it is not…
Chairman Castle. It could legally happen, and you have got to go through a lot of hoops to get there, but it does not happen now, even though it is authorized under the laws as present read; is that correct?
Mr. Musick. Correct. I have seen one thing, Mr. Chairman, your other questions. Eighth-grade math, one of the best examples, a state gets its eighth-grade math scores and the superintendent says, "Well, no wonder we did not do well. We do not teach algebra." Well, it has been decided across America that algebra is a legitimate eighth-grade subject. So if you find out you do not do well because you do not teach algebra at the eighth grade in your state, states legitimately change their curriculum. They see that other states are doing that and their students are at a competitive disadvantage.
Chairman Castle. I was not going to ask this question. Mr. Klicka, do you have a problem with that? Does that get into the nationalization aspect you were concerned about? That is a state curriculum decision, obviously but does that start to get up against the kinds of things that you were concerned about in your opening statement?
Mr. Klicka. Yes, it does. I have quoted that one statement from Wayne Riddle with the CRS report, and he indicated that same thing. He said, "Given the impossibility of modifying NAEP to match the different curricula in various states, states would likely have substantial motivation to modify that curricula to more closely match the NAEP's curriculum framework."
In fact, the vice chairman of NAGB, last time around when we were before this committee on NAEP, she made what she believed to be an important distinction. She said, "We are not making curriculum frameworks, but rather, assessment frameworks." Our point is there is no real distinction because the national assessment frameworks created by NAGB will dictate a national curriculum framework. So as a number of the others have said, education experts from the various states, what gets tested will be taught. Now, this could be certainly for good to a degree, or it could not be so good, depending on the subject matter, what the test questions are like. One of the recommendations I make here is to stick with the long-term trend assessment, as what I believe to be the original intent of NAEP, so that we can judge how the nation is doing as a whole, because these main assessments, which is where the state assessments are coming through, a number of reports have showed they are too vague, since in its content and structure, it is regularly revised to reflect more current views and practices in instruction and curriculum.
So what you see is you see a stable long-term trend assessment so that we can see how we do as a nation, and how federal policy-makers can determine where money needs to be spent. But on the other hand, this main assessment and these state assessments are very vague and it seems to me like the states are, instead of doing their work in their state, they are relying on the big brother federal government. Obviously, states like Florida are doing fine with their state high-stakes state assessment, and I trust states. I trust that local control, and I would be concerned about NAEP influencing all this testing policy in the states.
Chairman Castle. Well, we could have a debate about how good the state control is too if we wanted to. We are not going to do that right now. I have some questions about control on a lot of different levels.
I am going to terminate all of my questioning, and I do not know if Mr. Kildee or Mr. Schaffer has any final questions they want to ask. Mr. Kildee, maybe you want to make a final statement, so I will turn to Mr. Kildee first.
Mr. Kildee. I thank the witnesses for their very fine testimony here today, and I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing. It has been very helpful.
Chairman Castle. Thank you, Dale. Mr. Schaffer?
Mr. Schaffer. Mr. Chairman, I do have a number of questions that I would like to submit in writing.
Chairman Castle. We will allow you to have another round. Oh, you want to submit the questions?
Mr. Schaffer. Yes, I will submit them.
Chairman Castle. The witnesses here are all pretty experienced, and as you know, sometimes we cannot get through all the questioning. In fact, we have pages of questions we did not near. We reserve the right for the various members to be able to submit questions to you in writing, which we would hope you participate in by answering, because if you do not, we will have another hearing and bring you back to answer the questions.
Chairman Castle. Mr. Schaffer is indicating he has some questions. So if you could cooperate in that, we would appreciate it.
Let me thank you too for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here today. This has been very helpful. We know when you start to change things, it is not easy, and I think we always have to keep in mind what our goal is, all of our goals are, and that is to educate our kids as well as we possibly can, and hopefully we can make the right decisions to do that. I do not see any way we are going to write legislation on this that is going to make everybody in front of me here happy, much less the whole world. If I can just keep Mr. Kildee happy, we will have done very well. But we are going to work on it, because we have a strong belief that we can make some improvements, and we are going to take a stab at it and hopefully we can.
I very much appreciate Mr. Schaffer and Mr. Kildee's attention here, and all of you. I apologize again for the fact we had about an hour's delay here for the votes, but we could not do much about it.
Again, we thank you for being here today and for your excellent testimony. At this point we stand adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:37 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]