American Board Embroiled in Political Fire

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In an unfortunate political development, Congressman George Miller (D-California) called for a GAO investigation last week into grants made by the U.S. Department of Education to two groups, William Bennett's K12 and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) which NCTQ gave birth to three years ago.

In his press release, Miller identified the two groups as having ?close ties to Department officials" and as receiving funds after "career peer reviewers at the Department counseled against granting?. While we'll profess no knowledge of the process used to award funds to K12, Miller's insinuation that ABCTE funding merits a full investigation is off base.

For the record, Miller didn?t capture the whole story when he cited that the Department of Education disregarded grant reviewers' negative scores and awarded the funds regardless. ABCTE has received two federal grants. The first, a $5 million grant that was awarded before NCLB was even enacted, was reviewed at a time when the two of the three ?rejecting? reviewers didn?t see a need for alternative certification and openly communicated their clear bias against any alternative certification programming.

In 2003, the second, much larger grant for $35 million over five years received strongly positive endorsements by all three reviewers, with an average score of 91 out of 100. Unlike the first grant, this second, larger grant came at a time when alternative certification programs had gained broad acceptance nationally.

Until we can trust reviewers to value the objective merit of a proposal over their own opinions or casual interpretations of the latest trends, we discourage folks like Miller from digging up these reviews looking for nefarious behavior. Like many innovative new ideas, the initial grant faced severe resistance and bias. And to put this all in perspective, the $40 million that ABCTE will receive over seven years falls far, far short of the $130 million the National Board has received as of 2003. ABCTE is nothing more than a sincere effort to provide a practical, sorely needed, meaningful teacher credential.