Think tank: Is No Child working? Who knows?
After an exhaustive look at test data in all 50 states, the Center on Education Policy, a reputable national think tank, concludes in a report released this morning that student achievement in reading and math has improved since No Child Left Behind became the law of the land in 2002, and that far more states have narrowed achievement gaps over that time that widened them. But.
But it's entirely unclear whether No Child deserves the credit, the report says. Part of the reason: No Child-like initiatives were underway in many states (Florida among them) well before President Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (yes, Dems overwhelmingly supported No Child, too, though it might be hard to tell from subsequent media coverage) managed to find a middle ground on education reform. Another reason: It's hard to tell how much the gains are due to kids actually getting smarter versus other considerations. More test prep? Easier tests? Creative number crunching? Could be any or all of those things, too, the CEP report says.
No Child, of course, requires that states annually test students in reading and math, and that they slice and dice the data to see whether poor kids, minority kids, disabled kids and kids who speak English as a second language are also making gains. If the trend lines aren't moving in the right direction for the student population as a whole and for every sub-group, then consequences kick in, including provisions that force school districts to allow children in high-poverty schools to transfer to higher-scoring schools or get private tutoring, free of charge.
The CEP report includes breakdowns state by state, but the Florida section is mostly a rehash of FCAT data going back to 1999. If you're an FCAT data freak (and The Gradebook knows you're out there), then by all means, click here.
Want to know what Education Secretary Spellings thinks about the report? Click here.