No Child smoke 'n mirrors
By letting states set their own standards for academic proficiency, No Child Left Behind has also allowed many of them to pull off a scam, says a study out this morning by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association. Why? Because too many states end up setting the bar too low, especially in reading and in early grades.
"NCLB is based on a great illusion: The illusion that it is providing greater transparency about the performance of students, teachers, and schools," institute president Chester E. Finn Jr. said in a press release. "In fact, the very opposite is happening … parents cannot trust that they are getting an accurate, objective and fair assessment of how their children are really doing in school."
The study looked at test score data in 26 states, but Florida, unfortunately, was not one of them. Other observers have raised similar questions about the often big disconnect between progress on many state tests, and the lack of progress on other yardsticks like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (see here and here). In Florida, the trend lines with FCAT scores have largely paralleled NAEP scores (see St. Petersburg Times story here). In fact, the complaint from many districts right now is that the FCAT may be too hard, not too easy (see yesterday's Times story here).
The Fordham folks posit that many states are buckling to pressure to meet No Child's goal of getting all kids proficient by 2014. There's no evidence of a "race to the bottom," the report says, but there is a "walk to the middle." The sad bottom line: When states set the bar too low, the report says, they're "setting elementary students up to fail as they progress through their academic careers." To see the full report, click here. And to read today's Washington Post story on the report, click here.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter