…Don’t Blame NCLB For Everything!

Ed Week’s Hoff has more on the changing nature of education politics. Support for No Child Left Behind is noteworthy considering how intensely unpopular President Bush is these days…

3 Replies to “…Don’t Blame NCLB For Everything!”

  1. I’m not sure how the survey results are all that dramatic or that different from the mix of surveys in the past. The support that exists looks pretty tepid, no matter how you slice it.

  2. The public support sounds tepid to me also; its just better than most polls. After all, what does it mean to support NCLB? Transform the accountability regime, and I’d support it too. I’d like to see a poll of civil rights leaders who support NCLB, and find out how many of them send their kids to a inner city school like Frderick Douglass in Baltimore.

    I’ve got all of this great new local data to analyze but I’m blogging because of two great two tools for understanding NCLB, when viewed from the perspective of a high school teacher.

    The new CEP study and Hard Times at Frederick Douglass are both great, but unfortunately you have to actually read the CEP study.

    I stay agnostic on elementary issues. Common sense indicates that the potential good of NCLB-type accountability is greater, but the potential harm is greater also.

    But what is the purpose of NCLB, to raise elementary test scores or to increase student learning so that they will be more successful in middle and high school; and college and life? State and NAEP scores show that elementary kids with a couple of years of NCLB under their belts increase scores. But what happens to middle school kids who have spent most of their schooling under NCLB?

    Middle school math gains in NAEP are smaller but that would be offset by a decrease in the Achievement Gap. IF you trust state data, we would have evidence that the greater good was being achieved by the greater number. But NAEP shows that the Black-White Achievement gap in 8th grade Math widened in more states (14) than where in shrank (8) The same pattern applied to the Low Income Achievement Gap which widened in 16 states while closing in 7.

    Results for 8th grade Reading are even worse. Even with NAEP scores, 21 states showed gains, with 18 being slight, while 12 states showed declines. The Black-White Achievement Gap increased and decreased in the same number of states (12). The Average Annual Gains in NAEP 8th grade Reading were.2% and the Effect size was 0.

    Worst still was high school data. The CEP noted that NAEP Science scores have actually declined for high school. Mostly, the CEP just recounted reasons for the lack of progress, such as the lack of school safety and poor preparation (too much teach to the test in previous years).

    One of the CEPs virtues was describing the magnitude of the task we face. The Black-White Achievement gaps in middle school are as great as 28 points in Reading and 29 in Math.

    That is a great transition to HBOs wonderful documentary on Douglass High. Does anyone really believe that NCLB has any relevance – or any potential for positive contributions – in a school like that? If you haven’t taught in an inner city secondary school, and you question this teacher’s perspectives, at least watch that powerful documentary.

  3. I think what the NAEP scores and others show is that educators (and I include myself in this) have become better at teaching lower elementary school students how to read and do mathematics. And better at helping disadvantaged students learn more. So the fourth grade scores look good because they measure the skills taught in previous grades. I think the NCLB was part of making this happen.

    But we don’t know how to teach reading and mathematics to fourth graders and beyond. As the content becomes more demanding and the reading skills required become more complicated, students struggle and educators are not well-skilled in teaching these. Not all educators, but many. And especially those teaching disadvantaged students.

    I suggest that Ed Schools stop blathering about politics etc. and start teaching future teachers the skills they need to impart knowledge to older students. If new teachers were better educated, then maybe some of these problems would be solved. And if NCLB helps make this happen, then terrific. I think it will.

    Parents of disadvantaged students support or are neutral about NCLB because it doesn’t hurt and often helps the schools their children attend offer better education.

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