Report Says High Achievers’ Scores Inch Up Under NCLB

June 18, 2008 1 min read

A new study documents the steady improvement of low-achieving students (who are disproportionately African-American, Hispanic, or other minorities) in the NCLB era and the small gains made by high achievers (who are disproportionately white or Asian-American). The achievement gap between them is narrowing.

“The general pattern is one of all boats rising; but the boats at the 10th percentile rose more than those at the 90th percentile,” Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution writes in the new report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

In a survey of 900 teachers, 24 percent said that attention and resources dedicated to gifted students have declined in the past five years; 45 percent said it has stayed about the same.

Mike Petrilli says the report’s findings are evidence that Congress should “rethink NCLB’s accountability measures” (He also provides links to the media coverage.) Eduwonkette writes that state accountability systems that predated NCLB produced the same results. And Robert Pondiscio “is giddy” the issue is getting attention because bored, gifted kids were his “No. 1 concern as a classroom teacher.”

Here’s my question: If “all boats” are rising, doesn’t that mean student achievement is progressing in ways desired by NCLB’s framers? Kids at all levels are improving while the achievement gap is narrowing. Perhaps the achievement of gifted kids isn’t increasing as quickly as some would like, but the achievement gap will never narrow if low achievers’ performance doesn’t increase faster than that of high achievers.

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