NAEP Scores: Has NCLB Helped Close Achievement Gaps?

The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) come as Congress discusses reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (NCLB), writes Paul E. Peterson at Education Next.

And the results show that, for fourth graders, the black-white test score gap had opened up by 7 points in the 12 years prior to the passage of NCLB, while the Hispanic-white gap had opened by 5 points.

Interestingly, after the law was enacted, the black-white test-score gap closed by 2 points and the Hispanic-white gap closed by 1 point.

Peterson points out that is a switch in the trend line of 9 points and 6 points, respectively.  Not as much as we would like, but better than what might have been.

At the 8th grade level, the black-white gap had remained unchanged prior to NCLB, but closed 4 points after it was introduced. For Hispanics, the negative trend was 4 points prior to NCLB, and the positive trend 3 points after the law came into being.  That constitutes a direction switch of 7 points.

And as average white scores since 2002 are up, considerably so in maths, and fairly in reading, it can’t be argued that the reversal in the trends were due to a decline in average white test scores.

Several researchers have evaluated the achievement consequences of the accountability systems states developed during the 1990s, writes Tom Dee and Brian A. Jacob at Education Next.

A Stanford study based on state-level NAEP data, but Martin Carnoy and Susanna Loeb, found that within-state growth in math performance between 1996 and 2000 was larger in states with higher values on an accountability index, particularly for African American and Hispanic students in 8th grade.

Another Stanford study, by Eric Hanushek and Margaret Raymond, classified states as having either “report-card accountability” or “consequential accountability.” Report-card states provided a public report of school-level test performance while states with consequential accountability both publicized school-level performance and attached consequences to that performance.

The study found that the introduction of consequential accountability within a state was associated with increases in NAEP scores.

These studies indicate that NCLB-style accountability provisions may increase student achievement and also demonstrate how state-level NAEP data can be used to evaluate accountability systems.

Peterson writes that, despite its faults, after NCLB’s passage into law, white, black and Hispanic students all made gains and the widening of the white-minority test score gap was reversed.

11 14, 2011
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