FairTest: NCLB Was a “Lost Decade” for School Progress

As we come to the 10 year anniversary of No Child Left Behind, a new report by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) has slammed the policy's legacy, calling it "misguided" and accused it of creating a "lost decade" for school progress with its effects undermining real reform.

Summarizing data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and dozens of independent studies, the report – "NCLB's Lost Decade for Educational Progress" – claims that the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law "failed badly both in terms of its own goals and more broadly," leading to a decade of educational stagnation.

The report claims:

  • NCLB failed to boost average academic performance or significantly narrow achievement gaps, with U.S. students making smaller gains since NCLB was implemented
  • NCLB narrowed the curriculum in many poor and low performing schools by focusing attention on the limited skills standardized tests measure, severely damaging educational quality and equity
  • Proposals to reform NCLB such as the Obama Administration's waivers and the Senate Education Committee's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill fail to address many of the law's fundamental problems and may, in fact, intensify them

"NCLB undermined many promising reform efforts because of its reliance on one-size-fits-all testing, labeling and sanctioning schools," says the report's lead author Lisa Guisbond.

"A decade's worth of solid evidence documents the failure of NCLB and similar high-stakes testing schemes. Successful programs in the U.S. and other nations demonstrate better ways to improve schools. Yet, policymakers still cling to the discredited NCLB model."

"It's not too late to learn the lessons of the past ten years. Now is the time to craft a federal law that supports equity and progress in all public schools," added FairTest Executive Director, Dr. Monty Neill.

In the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) has proposed a comprehensive plan to overhaul NCLB, calling for the use of multiple measures to assess student and school performance and targets resources to improve teaching and learning.

"More than 150 national education, civil rights, disability, religious, labor and civic groups have signed proposal."

This comes as proposals led by senator Tom Harkin to reauthorize ESEA, effectively rewriting NCLB, has found support from many education organizations.

"This legislation represents a truly meaningful down payment for kids in rural America who have too often been cut out of our national investment in education," said Mark Shriver, Save the Children Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs.

"As we face historic childhood poverty rates in rural America, education is the best path to breaking this crisis that has gripped parts of our nation for generations."

Some 25 major nonprofit organizations representing the nation's leading innovators in the education sector, includes Teach for America, City Year, Citizen Schools and Save the Children have been vocal in their support of Harkin's plan.

A press release states:

"[They] were thrilled to see provisions that incentive partnerships with effective nonprofit organizations, and the inclusion of competitive funding streams, two major principles they have been advocating for in the process for reauthorization."

01 5, 2012
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