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NCLB Reading Target to Be Missed, Study Says

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Data from state and national reading assessments for students in the upper-elementary grades through high school offer little hope that the nation’s public schools will come close to meeting the achievement goals set under the federal No Child Left Behind Act over the next decade, a new analysis concludes.

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A study prepared by the RAND Corp. for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, released Dec. 16, suggests that inadequate progress is being made in meeting the federal mandate by 2014.

“Recent reform efforts in education have yielded positive results in improving reading achievement for the nation’s children in the primary grades, but many children are not moving beyond basic decoding skills to fluency and comprehension,” says the report, “Achieving State and National Literacy Goals, a Long Uphill Road.”

The RAND researchers analyzed results from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia from state tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading/English language arts and writing.

‘We Work Harder’

While state tests are not comparable with each other, or the national assessment, and the rigor of the tests and the way in which they measure proficiency in the subject also vary widely, the results generally show that too few adolescents, and particularly African-American and Hispanic youths, are on track toward meeting state and national benchmarks.

On state reading assessments of middle schoolers, for example, passing rates ranged from 21 percent in South Carolina to 94 percent in Massachusetts. Fewer than half the students in 12 states passed their respective tests. On the latest national assessment in the subject, administered in 2003, students’ proficiency rates ran from 10 percent in the District of Columbia to 43 percent in Massachusetts. It is generally agreed that the national assessments in most subjects have a high standard for measuring proficiency.

On writing assessments, student results on both state and national tests are generally lower than for reading.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Education dismiss dire predictions for attainment of the federal goal, saying that it is still possible to bring all children up to proficiency by the target date of 2014.

“We’re only a few years into these reforms, and just because we’re not there yet doesn’t mean we abandon kids and the goal of having them all at grade level—it means we work harder,” Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an e-mail.

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