Education Report Roundup

High-Stakes Spillover Seen

By Sean Cavanagh — July 15, 2008 1 min read
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So-called “high stakes” testing policies in reading and mathematics have had a positive effect on the science performance of students in struggling Florida schools, a study concludes.

Released July 8 by the Manhattan Institute, a think tank in New York City, the study is based on an evaluation of schools that received an F grade in reading or math under Florida’s school accountability program. That “high stakes” program, to use the study’s definition, grades schools on the academic performance of students and assigns sanctions for those that do not improve.

The study found that students in schools receiving failing grades made greater gains the next year on the state exam in science—which was not a high-stakes subject in Florida at the time of the study—than they would have done if their school had not received an F.

The authors—Marcus A. Winters, Jay P. Greene, and Julie R. Trivitt—speculate that the pressure to improve academic achievement in high-stakes subjects may have improved schools’ overall academic quality; and that resultant, improved reading and math focus may have helped students in other subjects, such as science.

The study comes amid worries by science advocates that their subject is being squeezed out of the curriculum, as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act’s emphasis on reading and math.

A version of this article appeared in the July 16, 2008 edition of Education Week

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