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The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires states to adopt test-based accountability systems designed to promote improved achievement by setting clear goals for student learning, measuring students’ progress toward those goals, and holding educators accountable for this progress through the dissemination of results and the imposition of rewards, sanctions, and assistance. Although much has been written about the law, little has been written about the interaction of NCLB with external audiences that do not have formal connections with the schools. This study focuses on two key external audiences that are involved in public education and that frequently use data from schools and districts in their work — print journalists and foundation program officers. The authors use insights from conversations with journalists and program officers to identify ways to improve the utility of information from test-based accountability systems. They summarize the data needs of the two groups and the problems they encounter when trying to interpret test results and offer advice to the producers of performance reports and analyses (states, school districts, and researchers) and to the external consumers of those reports (journalists and program officers) on how to enhance the utility of the information.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Overview of the No Child Left Behind Act

  • Chapter Three

    Method

  • Chapter Four

    Results

  • Chapter Five

    Discussion

  • Chapter Six

    Conclusions

This research described in the report was conducted by RAND Education for the Ford Foundation

This report is part of the RAND Corporation occasional paper series. RAND occasional papers may include an informed perspective on a timely policy issue, a discussion of new research methodologies, essays, a paper presented at a conference, or a summary of work in progress. All RAND occasional papers undergo rigorous peer review to help ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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