Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Should NCLB go the way of the PSA?

You may have heard the media reports last week. The United States Prevention Services Task Force released a draft recommendation that otherwise healthy men should no longer undergo prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening, which has been utilized as a marker for prostate cancer. The task force made this recommendation based on evidence from five clinical trials. These data suggest that administration of the PSA test does not save lives, and more often than not, results in unnecessary painful treatments that may cause incontinence and/or impotence. TheNew York Times has a good summary, published on October 6, 2011.

So, what does this report on the utility of the PSA test as a screen for prostate cancer have to do with NCLB? Well, nothing really, except that it demonstrates the Department of Education can get a school accountability system right if it takes a look at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) approach to evidence based recommendations. The US Prevention Services Task Force is an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care appointed by the DHHS. That's right, a panel of experts. Not Congress, not governors, not local politicians, but experts. Physicians and scholars who study and practice medicine.

Now wouldn't it be nice if an independent panel of educational thought leaders developed a school accountability policy based on evidence? Perhaps Arne and his department can look to the DHHS for guidance. Your thoughts?