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NEWS RELEASES 2001-02 :: DECEMBER 5, 2001


Raleigh, NC, December 05, 2001 An independent audit panel retained by the North Carolina State Board of Education has completed its study of the state's testing and accountability programs. These results, presented to the State Board on Wednesday, Dec. 5, showed that while the program is having a positive impact on education, certain actions are necessary to ensure the continual development of a quality testing program.

The study, which began in August, was designed to research technical and decision-making issues regarding the testing and accountability programs primarily focusing on aspects that may have contributed to the low cut-scores used for the May 2001 mathematics test. The summary report, produced by the panel in conjunction with the management consulting firm of Align360 from Virginia and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), identifies the panel's findings and recommendations regarding the testing and accountability programs.

State Board Chair Phil Kirk stated that continuously striving to improve the system to ensure it is fair and valid is an important part of developing a program that results in improved student achievement. "We welcome the recommendations from the audit panel. I assure you that the State Board is committed to strengthening this program."

Although the audit panel was impressed with North Carolina's assessment and accountability programs, the panel also noted that the problems with the low mathematics cut-scores clearly signal that important issues related to testing and accountability must be addressed to ensure the integrity and credibility of the testing program. Some of the factors identified in the report as contributing to the low cut-scores included inadequate resources for the Department of Public Instruction, insufficient communication between the decision-making parties, and a program implementation timeline that was too short.

Mark Musick, president of the SREB in Atlanta, said "North Carolina clearly made mistakes in its standard setting process in 2000-2001." With this in mind, he feels the state board approached the situation correctly by conducting an independent audit by nationally-recognized experts.

"These recommendations will strengthen the testing and accountability program and improve its credibility."

Expressing support for the study and its results, State Superintendent Mike Ward stated that ensuring the credibility of the testing program is important. "We make important decisions about the progress of students and school districts based on these assessments. The nation and other states view North Carolina's accountability program as a model. The recommendations from the audit panel will enable us to improve upon our program and rebuild confidence that was shaken by the math cut score situation."

For additional information, please contact Jim Watts, vice president of the SREB in Atlanta, at 1.404.875.9211.

To view the Audit Panel Report: (pdf, 241kb)

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About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.