When the NAEP scores released this week showed that achievement inched up in big cities, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said in a statement that they showed that “NCLB is working.” She said the same thing—word for word—when state-by-state results came out in September.
Then and now, critics have questioned her use of the data. The point-counterpoint has been going on for two years.
Spellings’ strategy is probably a good one, even if it is a bit repetitive. But will it hold in the long run? Let’s say two years from now NAEP scores go down or even level off. Wouldn’t an education secretary working for a president who campaigned against the law* cite that as evidence the NCLB isn’t working?
Where would NCLB be then? Even if Congress manages to reauthorize the law in the next year, a new president could point to a slide in NAEP scores as a reason to re-open the debate and press for significant changes.
* For those of you just joining us, most of the current presidential field has had unkind things to say about NCLB. Even the candidates who like the idea of accountability say NCLB “isn’t working” or promise to reform it.
UPDATE: I have added a link to FairTest’s statement on the urban district’s NAEP scores. It’s in the second paragraph on the word “now.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.