USA Today: Sky Not Falling

It’s been rumored for a while, but now it’s official: The sky is not falling because of No Child Left Behind.

USA Today’s Toppo writes up the story that has NCLB foes frustrated and hard-core proponents skeptical: Fewer schools not making “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) under NCLB than forecast.

Why? Explanations abound, regulatory changes, politics, gaming, or even – gasp- more attention to students who were not doing so well.

In Eduwonk’s view here are three likely reasons that, in concert, are likely the cause:

1) More attention to struggling students. Though the law is not without problems, when you get out around the country it’s hard to miss the increased attention to students who were previously shunted aside. And, though they get eviscerated by the powers-that-be for saying it publicly, a lot of educators privately acknowledge that.

2) The regulatory changes. Under pressure, the Bush Administration did make some sensible regulatory changes, that’s obviously had an effect too. However, these changes did not “help” as many schools as was assumed.

3) Statistical fluctuations. Single-year test score are imprecise and subject to all kinds of fluctuation. This is why the law allows states to employ a variety of tools to average scores over multiple years, use confidence intervals, and so forth. It’s also why no serious consequences are attached to AYP until a school fails to make progress for several years. In other words, this year’s numbers are just one year, not definitive.

Afterthought: The charge that these changes are all politics is silly. Had the Bush administration not moved on some changes people would be charging politics, too. Remember, the CW not long ago was that this was all about making public schools look bad, now it’s about making them look too good?…One exception to all this, of course, Texas…

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