Student achievement has risen under the No Child Left Behind Act, but the academic growth students show over the course of a school year has slowed, particularly for some minority groups, says a new study.
The study was conducted by the nonprofit Northwest Evaluation Association, based in Portland, Ore., using tests it has devised for about 1,500 districts in 43 states. The tests are typically given when students start school in the fall and again in the spring.
The researchers evaluated reading data for more than 320,000 pupils in grades 3-8 in 200-plus districts in 23 states, and mathematics data for more than 334,000 students in the same grades in more than 200 districts in 22 states. They compared achievement scores and fall-to-spring growth in the 2001-02 and the 2003-04 school years. Although broad, the sample is not nationally representative.
In both reading and math, students entering a grade in 2003 had higher beginning test scores than children entering the same grade in 2001, before the NCLB legislation became law. Those gains held true for African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students.
But the rate of growth over the course of a school year slipped between 2001-02 and 2003-04, particularly for minority youngsters. In a comparison of Hispanic and Anglo students with the same initial test score, for instance, Hispanic students’ achievement grew noticeably less over the course of a year.
If those trends continue, the researchers say, states won’t be close to having all students “proficient” on state tests by 2014, as the law requires.
“I certainly wouldn’t suggest that No Child Left Behind is not working, because the evidence would seem to indicate that it is,” said Allan Olson, the NWEA’s executive director.
The study found that achievement levels and growth rates were higher in grades where state tests are given, lending support to the federal law’s requirement for annual testing in grades 3-8.