Bubble Kids Benefit

July 16, 2007 1 min read

A new study out of Chicago suggests that low-achieving and high-achieving students haven’t benefited from No Child Left Behind.

When comparing changes in Chicago students’ test scores pre- and post-NCLB, researchers Derek Neal and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach found a “strikingly consistent pattern” in the test scores of students with lowest-achievement test scores. They scored “the same or lower” under NCLB’s accountability system than they did in the 1990s under the Chicago’s accountability measures.

When looking at gifted students, the researchers found “mixed evidence of gains” in the NCLB era.

Kids in the middle--the ones closest to proficiency--performed better under NCLB than they did before.

This study lends credence to common critiques of that law encourages teachers to focus on the so-called bubble kids--the ones that are close to reaching proficiency.

Growth models can fix the problem by rewarding schools for progress of students’ at the lowest end of the spectrum. But this study brings to mind the question about gifted students. What incentives will schools have to reach out to gifted students if the ultimate goal of NCLB is proficiency for all by 2013-14?

We’ll link to the study once it’s posted online.

To come: Education Week‘s Debra Viadero is at a panel discussion where Neal presents the research. Respondents to the presentation include an Education Department official, two critics of the law, and one supporter of it. Expect to see a story soon.

UPDATE: The report is now online. Click on the upper right corner of the site announcing the event at the American Enterprise Institute.

UPDATE II: AEI now has a link directly to the pdf of the study. And Debra Viadero’s story is here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.