“No Child left behind:” Did it work?

No child left behind was supposed to aid minority children in catching up in school with white kids.  It was promoted by Bush as putting a stress on accountability.  That is, it stressed testing to see if the children did learn.  But the NY Times says it did’t work:

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.

But could anything work?  Well, something did make a  lot of difference:

Although Black and Hispanic elementary, middle and high school students all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.

That might suggest that even a partial equalizing of resourcess makes a significant difference.  Who would have guessed?

Of course, there are still defenders of Bush’s act:

But Margaret Spellings, [the last secretary of ed] under President Bush, called the results a vindication of the No Child law.

“It’s not an accident that we’re seeing the most improvement where N.C.L.B. has focused most vigorously,” Ms. Spellings said. “The law focuses on math and reading in grades three through eight — it’s not about high schools. So these results are affirming of our accountability type approach.”

Texan Armadillo

There really is nothing  like those Texans for persistence in beliefs.  What she’s referring to, though, is the fact that any recent gains appear to disappear in high school.  Hmmmmmm.  We don’t see to have gotten it right yet.

10 thoughts on ““No Child left behind:” Did it work?

  1. I think that the only difference in test scores of today compared to those of previous years is that many schools are “teaching” standarized test, like the Regents in New York.

    Recently, I was a grader for this test and it was pretty much told to us that if a student had a score of 60 to “find” extra points in the free response sections to bump the student up to a 68.

    All in all, I agree that NCLB is leaving a LOT of kids behind. Yes, they pass state exams, but they are often in for a rude awakening when they enter college.

  2. swoseil, thanks for you input, and sad story.

    Instead of testing, they could just ask college profs whether kids are arriving more or less prepared for college.

  3. But that would only cover the kids who make it to college, so I can see the desire to test in order to check on all of them– even though I don’t really like all the testing.

  4. Jender, I wasn’t entirely serious, but I also think there may be an important asymmetry here. If the college bound are declining in skills or are not advancing, I’d have thought we can make very important inferences about the success of the program. It would be different if the college students were doing better.

    I’m not happy to think that kids end up with the idea that learning is learning to pass tests, which seems to be happening. Students often now can’t understand why certain bits of behavior are not enough to count as comprehending material. (E.g., I showed up to class and read the material, so I’d get an A if X’s grading was fair.) It’s not just thinking that is true, but also not being able to understand why it might not be.

  5. And I should have recognized your ability to bring attention to those who are falling outside hyper educated notice!

  6. JJ – a similar version of that is the ‘should I include x, y, and z in my essay?’ A colleague whose wife was teaching A-levels claims this is a feature of the fact that the UK gov is now publishing school league tables. Teachers are telling their students exactly what to write in their essays to pass the course. A lot of them seem pretty baffled when they get to us and discover that we expect them to decide what to include. (Small rant – currently marking essays!)

  7. Monkey, that’s so familiar. I try to explain the point is that they need to decide and they look so puzzled!

  8. The “No Child left behind Act” doesn’t work because it addresses only a few variables in a complicated system as if it is attacking the declining rate from a research perspective when isolating a single variable, rather than taking on the arduous task of addressing ALL variables that make a student successful in passing standard tests. Poverty is affecting the minority’s and a growing number of white’s as well, I think we need to address that issue before thinking we can overcome poverty in the classroom. It’s a great idea, but not very practical in real life.

  9. oops, that should have read,
    ” …it addresses only one variable in a complicated system as if it is attacking the declining rate from a research perspective when isolating a single variable…”

    Its getting late, sorry.

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