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Ed Dept. Outlines NCLB Accomplishments

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I came across this new release from the Ed Dept. on the "Progress by Our Schools and the U.S. Department of Education."

The paper outlines what the Ed. Dept. sees as accomplishments of the NCLB era, including higher test scores, a narrowing achievement gap, and progress on international comparison exams. It also recounts some of the changes the law required, including more data, disaggregated by student group, options for students in failing schools, and more support services for those schools. There are sections on teachers, higher education, and choice.

I'm sure some of the claims will be challenged by critics, particularly those that suggest that test scores gains resulted from the law. Indeed test scores for 4th and 8th graders on the NAEP math test, and for 4th graders on the reading test were higher in 2007 than ever before. But many observers say that they rose as part of a trend that started well before the NCLB law came to fruition.

Few would credit NCLB with improved scores in history, especially since many reports suggest that time spent on the subject has declined to make way for more reading and math instruction.

Other claims, however, are indisputable. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, for example, have accountability plans, test students annually, publish report cards on school performance, and participate in the NAEP.

What's your take?

3 Comments

"Indeed test scores for 4th and 8th graders on the NAEP math test, and for 4th graders on the reading test were higher in 2007 than ever before. But many observers say that they rose as part of a trend that started well before the NCLB law came to fruition."

You can be an observer too.

Just look at any of the NAEP reports, available on the internet, especially The Nation's Report Card 2007, one for reading and one for math. It's all there. The gains for grade 4 reading occurred before NCLB went into effect, and there are no gains for grade 8 reading. Math scores have been rising at the same rate for years, since well before NCLB. NCLB did nothing to increase the rate of improvement. It takes only a few minutes to see this. These results have been pointed out and published again and again, and the Dept of Education has not responded.

Did the gap get narrower? While you are looking at the NAEP scores, look at the difference between high and low-income children: It has not changed since 2003, not for math, not for reading, not for grade 4 or grade 8.

Why wouldn't the scores continue to rise? That's all that is being taught---how to score on multiple choice and formulaic criteria-based tests.

HOWEVER, when I ask those test smart students to actually use that knowledge instead of choosing the most likely answer created by someone else, they ask for tutorials. When I ask them to write, they can compose reasonably accurate basic prose regurgitations of what someone else has written, but originality and use of complex concepts and academic syntax are usually lacking. We are becoming better at producing minimally competent, unthinking automatons who rarely question authority---even when they should.

Kathleen,

I'm a NCLB advocate - for one reason. This federal legislation has revealed many suspicions we had about schools and students before the law came into effect.

There is now an identified achievement gap between poor/minority students and their white/Asian contemporaries. Finally, we have quantifiable data to demonstrate this inequity. At least now, school districts can formally address this issue instead of ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist.

There is much about the law I dislike. However, I have a great deal of confidence that President Obama and SOE Arne Duncan will rectify many of the law’s inadequacies via appropriate amendments to the original 2002 document.

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