Which students are improving fastest in the NCLB era: those at the top or the bottom of the achievement ladder?
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation issued a report last month suggesting that the test scores of those in the bottom 10 percent of achievement are rising faster than those in the top 10 percent. The study cited scores from the state version of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
When the report came out, I asked: Doesn’t this mean NCLB is working as intended?
But the Think Tank Review Project—made up of self-appointed gadflies in their own right—asked its own question: Do other NAEP data substantiate the conclusion? When Gregory Camilli of Rutgers University analyzed data from the national long-term trend NAEP, he found almost no change in the gap between the bottom 10 percent and the top 10 percent. He writes:
In sum, the state and long-term data sets give different results, and this problem needs to be addressed before gap statistics can be used confidently to describe the effects of accountability policies.
As in many debates over education, the research appears to be inconclusive. With the delay in NCLB reauthorization, there will be more chances for researchers to answer the question of whether NCLB has had a positive impact on the achievement of students at all levels.
A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.