Standards Opinion

Chat Wrap-Up: Research on Quality

February 07, 2006 2 min read

On Jan. 25, 2006, Christopher Swanson, the director of the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, answered questions from readers about student-achievement trends and standards-based education reform. The text-based chat was scheduled as part of Education Week’s recent release of Quality Counts at 10: A Decade of Standards-Based Education.


Mr. Swanson, an expert on high school reform and graduation rates, conducted a regression analysis for Quality Counts that explores the relationship between states’ implementation of standards-based reform policies and gains in student performance. Here is a brief, edited sample of the discussion:

Question: Which three or four states do you believe have achieved the greatest success thus far with standards-based education and reform?

Swanson: Quality Counts includes an extensive analysis of achievement data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress that was performed by the Education Commission of the States. This analysis tells us a great deal about progress at the elementary and middle school levels. The report includes special case studies of some states that have been particularly strong performers at these levels over the past decade. These include Delaware, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.

Question: From a statistical point of view, what does it mean when reforms in one subject area produce steady gains state by state, while reforms in another produce a significant percentage of decline?

A full transcript of this chat is online at www.edweek.org/chat/swanson/.

Swanson: Across our analysis, we find a number of places where results look much different for math (typically very strong) and reading (typically less strong). There are two major factors that may be coming into play here. First, math is a more school-based subject, whereas students may be better able to pick up literacy skills outside school. This could make math instruction and achievement more amenable to the influence of policies or other initiatives rooted in the school. The other issue that may be coming into play is the history of the standards movements in math and language arts. Math was an area where there was very early and strong leadership around a standards-based agenda. There was also relatively little controversy. By contrast, English/language arts reforms did not take off as early and were fairly quickly enmeshed in politically charged debates over how to define the “canon” in literature and related issues.

Question: What positive effects has the No Child Left Behind law had on student achievement?

Swanson: I should begin by saying that Quality Counts does not attempt to examine the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act. It’s not a referendum on the federal law. But the kinds of policies we have been tracking for a decade now (many of which predate No Child Left Behind) can help us better understand the kinds of standards-based educational principles that the law draws upon. In particular, we find that over the past decade states with stronger policy implementation in the areas of academic-content standards, aligned assessments, and accountability have seen larger gains in student achievement.

Related Tags:


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.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

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

Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02
Standards Opinion After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger?
The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty