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OPENING STATEMENT
BY:
DR. PASCAL D. FORGIONE, JR.
U.S. COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION STATISTICS

MAY 27, 1999

Good morning. Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, I am Dr. Pat Forgione, Commissioner of Education Statistics with the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. I was originally going to summarize my answers to the eleven questions specified in the Committee’s letter of April 21st, that are contained in the testimony I have submitted. But given the recent events, I believe it is most important that I offer some personal comments to set an appropriate context for this morning’s discussion.

In light of the issues that have brought us here today, I wish to clearly emphasize that over my three year tenure as U.S. Commissioner of Education Statistics, the integrity of NCES statistical processes have not been violated with respect to:

  • the identification of studies to be conducted,
  • the design and implementation of our studies, and
  • the analysis and content of our statistical reports.

However, there is one area that I believe needs attention: the release of the agency’s statistical findings. This is one issue that has brought us here today.

Over the last three years I have become sensitized to, and more acutely aware of, the issue of safeguarding the independence of a federal statistical agency. My primary goal has been to protect the integrity of our Nation’s education data. Critical to this is the release of results that are, and are perceived to be, objective and non-partisan. There will be much discussion today on a variety of issues, but please don’t be distracted from the heart of the matter—the integrity and independence of the statistical function in education.

 

The landmark report, Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency, which was produced by the National Research Council/Committee on National Statistics, identified two essential prerequisites for the effective operation of a federal statistical agency.

First, a clearly defined and well-accepted mission. Second, a strong measure of independence.

The report states "to be credible, a statistical agency must clearly be impartial. It must avoid even the appearance that its collection and reporting of data might be manipulated for political purposes."

I would like to submit the full report, from which I have just quoted from, for the record.

It is in everyone’s interest to have clear boundaries. The situation of ambiguity in releasing reports invariably leads to awkward situations that do not serve the Nation well.

With the appetite for sound and unassailable education data at an all-time high, I believe it is all the more vital at this moment to give the National Center for Education Statistics the institutional protection it needs to fulfill its statutory mission.

I have already submitted to you my statement in response to your series of questions regarding the 1998 NAEP reading results.

I am now prepared to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you.

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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
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