Student achievement in reading and math has increased since the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2002, according to the most comprehensive and thorough study to date of the results of state tests administered as part of the landmark federal education law.
In addition, the number of states in which achievement gaps among groups of students have narrowed far exceeds the number of states in which gaps widened since 2002, according to Answering the Question that Matters Most: Has Student Achievement Increased Since No Child Left Behind?, a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Education Policy (CEP).
The study is unique as it includes verified data from all 50 states – much of which is available for the first time in the report – and investigates achievement trends both before and after the passage of NCLB. The report also limits its analysis to testing data that is comparable from year-to-year, eliminating data in grades and subjects where states have made significant changes to their assessment systems.
The report also uses two methods for evaluating achievement, including the percentage of students considered proficient – the primary measure of adequate yearly progress under NCLB – and effect sizes, a measure based on average test scores that addresses some of the limitations of the percentage proficient measure. Using either method, the report finds that the number of states showing achievement gains since 2002 is far greater than the number showing a decline.
In addition, yearly gains are generally greater after 2002 in states where comparable data prior to 2002 was available. However, the report notes that the gains cannot be attributed directly to No Child Left Behind, as considerable federal, state and local reform efforts have all been underway prior to and since 2002. "American educators and students were asked to raise academic achievement, and they have done so," said Jack Jennings, president & CEO of the independent, private nonprofit Center on Education Policy. "The weight of evidence indicates that state test scores in reading and mathematics have increased overall since No Child Left Behind was enacted.
However, there should be no rush to judgment as there may be many factors contributing to the increased achievement." The study identified several possible reasons for the results, including increased learning, teaching to the test, more lenient tests, scoring or data analyses, and changes in the populations tested. "Any or all of these factors in combination could be contributing to these trends," the report indicates. continue reading