Washington, D.C. – Dr. Gary Phillips, a vice president and chief scientist at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on April 28, 2010, to make recommendations about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In his testimony Phillips encouraged Congress to include common content standards and common performance standards in ESEA reauthorization, noting that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) allows states to set their own standards, creating an “expectations gap.”
Phillips said that under NCLB, the consequences of failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) had the unintended result of encouraging states to lower, rather than raise, their own standards to levels that the majority of students could meet. “States then report high proficiency levels, when in fact the opposite may be true,” he said.
The gap in expectations in the state performance standards from state to state impacts state testing data that is distributed to policymakers, and misrepresents student achievement levels in many states. “If my child attends school in a state where almost everyone is proficient, what leverage do I have as a parent to ask the state to provide a more challenging education? The gap in expectations has major educational consequences,” said Phillips.
Phillips also recommended that Congress encourage states to use 21st century technology-based tests that are more accurate, less burdensome, faster, and cheaper than the current paper and pencil exams. “The total cost of a computer-adaptive test is half that of a paper and pencil test and results are available within 15 seconds,” he said.
Computer-adaptive tests are already in partial use in many states, and three states —Delaware, Hawaii, and Oregon— are using computer-adaptive testing programs across the entire state. Computer-adaptive testing also provides better measurement for both high-achieving students and low-achieving students such as students with disabilities and English language learners.
A copy of the prepared remarks by Phillips is available on www.air.org.
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit www.air.org.