Federal

12-State Study Finds Falloff in Testing Gains After NCLB

By Scott J. Cech — July 30, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind law, test-score improvement among 4th graders in 12 states has fallen off in reading and slowed in math, according to a new study.

The paper also cites National Assessment of Educational Progress scores reflecting a virtual halt to progress in closing racial achievement gaps in reading since the federal law was signed in 2002.

The research, which draws on data from both state tests and the federally administered NAEP, is sure to add fuel to the heated debate over the controversial law as Congress prepares to take up its reauthorization.

“Over the past four years, ‘No Child’ proponents have made very strong claims that this reform is raising student achievement,” said lead author Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the Policy Analysis for California Education research center based at Berkeley and Stanford University. “In fact, after NCLB, earlier progress made by the states actually petered out.”

Mr. Fuller said that pattern emerged from his examination of pre-NCLB state test data as well as results from the long-term NAEP. But he does not suggest that the NCLB law is responsible for the reading-achievement stagnation and math-gain slowdown that he says occurred in the 12 states since the 1990s.

The study, published in the July issue of Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the Washington-based American Educational Research Association, joins a thicket of recent reports on achievement levels since the federal law took effect.

In math, the new study found a rise in achievement since passage of the NCLB law in the 12 states studied: Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington state.

Between 2002 and 2006, the study shows, scores on the 12 states’ tests registered an unweighted mean growth rate of 2.4 percentage points in math proficiency. But the researcher noted that growth was slower after 2003 than it had been before passage of the NCLB law.

“Sustained gains in math post-NCLB offer a bright glimmer of hope that federal policy can make a difference inside classrooms,” Mr. Fuller said in an e-mail.

The new research follows a June study by the Washington-based Center on Education Policy that found consistent and significant increases in state-test scores since the legislation became law in January 2002.

Mr. Fuller found fault with the CEP study’s reliance on state tests alone, which he said were less trustworthy gauges of progress than long-range NAEP data—especially on reading.

When asked to comment on Mr. Fuller’s new analysis, CEP President Jack Jennings defended the state tests as “more accurate barometers of whether kids are learning what the state thinks is important.”

Reading Gap Sustained

Katherine McLane, the press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, took issue with Mr. Fuller’s conclusions.

“The fact is that No Child Left Behind is working,” she said. “What the report seems not to account for is that a law that affects tens of thousands of schools all over America can’t be implemented overnight and its effects are not immediate.”

On the achievement gap, Mr. Fuller’s study pointed to national NAEP data showing that in math, African-American 4th graders closed the gap with white students by more than half a grade level between 1992 and 2003. But it highlighted the fact that no further progress was made in 2005. Latino 4th graders, he observed, continued to close the math achievement gap even after passage of the federal law.

In reading, however, Mr. Fuller pointed to national NAEP data showing that black and Latino students’ 4th grade reading proficiency has not appreciably narrowed the gap with white students’ scores under the NCLB law.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal House Republicans Say Schools 'Stonewalled' Concerned Parents
Previewing their agenda, GOP members prioritized 'parents' rights' in the first education committee hearing since taking control of the House.
4 min read
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington on Nov. 3, 2021.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington last fall. Foxx is the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Education and Workforce committee.
Alex Brandon/AP
Federal Biden Calls for More Mental Health Care at Schools in State of the Union
Biden focused much of his annual speech on the mental health and well-being of children and youth.
6 min read
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal USDA Clamps Down on Salt and Sugar in Proposed School Nutrition Guidelines
It marks the first time the federal agency is calling for limiting the amount of added sugars in school meals.
4 min read
Young boy in a school lunchroom cafeteria line and choosing a slice of pizza to put on his tray which includes an apple.
SDI Productions/Getty
Federal Q&A Boosting 'Pathetically Low' Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
The progressive senator from Vermont spoke with Education Week as he prepares to chair the Senate's education committee.
6 min read
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, in late January.
Susan Walsh/AP