[Paleopsych] NYT: Study Finds Shortcoming in New Law on Education

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Wed Apr 13 14:17:15 UTC 2005

Study Finds Shortcoming in New Law on Education
April 13, 2005


    The academic growth that students experience in a given school year
    has apparently slowed since the passage of No Child Left Behind, the
    education law that was intended to achieve just the opposite, a new
    study has found.

    In both reading and math, the study determined, test scores have gone
    up somewhat, as each class of students outdoes its predecessors. But
    within grades, students have made less academic progress during the
    school year than they did before No Child Left Behind went into effect
    in 2002, the researchers said.

    That finding casts doubt on whether schools can meet the law's mandate
    that all students be academically proficient by 2014. In fact, to
    realize the goal of universal proficiency, the study said, students
    will have to make as much as three times the progress they are
    currently making.

    The study was conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association, which
    develops tests for about 1,500 school districts in 43 states. To
    complete it, the group drew upon its test data for more than 320,000
    students in 23 states, a sample that it calls "broad but not
    nationally representative," in part because the biggest cities, not
    being Northwest clients, were not included.

    One of the more ominous findings, the researchers said, is that the
    achievement gap between white and nonwhite students could soon widen.
    Closing the gap is one of the driving principles of the law, and so
    far states say they have made strides toward shrinking it.

    But minority students with the same test scores as their white
    counterparts at the beginning of the school year ended up falling
    behind by the end of it, the study found. Both groups made academic
    progress, but the minority students did not make as much, it
    concluded, an outcome suggesting that the gaps in achievement will

    "Right now it's kind of a hidden effect that we would expect to see
    expressed in the next couple of years," said Gage Kingsbury,
    Northwest's director of research. "At that point, I think people will
    be disappointed with what N.C.L.B. has done."

    The findings diverge from those of other recent studies, including a
    survey last month by the Center on Education Policy, a research group.
    It found that a significant majority of state education officials
    reported widespread academic progress and a narrowing of the
    achievement gap.

    "This new study should give everybody pause before they run off and
    say, 'We're marching to victory,' " said Jack Jennings, the center's
    president. "Maybe we're not."

    Kerri Briggs, a senior policy analyst at the Education Department,
    said the Northwest study had both encouraging and worrisome aspects,
    but added that she would have to examine it more closely before
    passing judgment.

    Some critics speculated that because the study lacked data from big
    cities, which have large populations of minority students and have
    posted significant gains on test scores in recent years, it might have
    overstated or mischaracterized what was happening with the achievement

    "It's hard to know how much you can extrapolate from this study," said
    Ross Wiener, policy director for the Education Trust, which released
    its own report in January showing mixed results on student performance
    and achievement gaps. "I don't think you want to make generalizations
    about what's going on nationwide."

    Still, the Northwest study tracked student performance at a level that
    others did not, a factor that may help explain why some of its
    findings appear unorthodox. Rather than relying on test scores at just
    one point in the year, the Northwest study looked at how students
    fared in the fall and then again in the spring, in an effort to see
    how much they had learned during the year.

    With this approach, Northwest found that test scores on its exams did,
    in fact, go up from one year to the next under No Child Left Behind,
    typically by less than a point. The reason successive classes appear
    to do a little better than those before them may stem from the fact
    that younger students have grown up during a time of more regular
    testing than their immediate predecessors, the researchers said, and
    are therefore higher achievers.

    But rising test scores tend to mask how much progress individual
    students make as they travel through school, the researchers found.
    Since No Child Left Behind, that individual growth has slowed,
    possibly because teachers feel compelled to spend the bulk of their
    time making sure students who are near proficiency make it over the

    The practice may leave teachers with less time to focus on students
    who are either far below or far above the proficiency mark, the
    researchers said, making it less likely for the whole class to move
    forward as rapidly as before No Child Left Behind set the agenda.

More information about the paleopsych mailing list