One of George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives, the piece of educational legislation called No Child Left Behind (more accurately labelled No Lie Left Behind), No Child Left Behind has not helped to improve test scores in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
WASHINGTON – The national report card is in for No Child Left Behind, and the results are mixed: American fourth- and eighth-graders are continuing hard-won gains in mathematics, but are still struggling, or even losing ground, in reading.
That's the big picture from the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the "gold standard" for testing, released Wednesday. Under the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, national and state report cards are required every two years as an indicator of whether students are learning basic skills - and how schools may need to adjust to make sure they do.
Reading scores among fourth- and eighth-graders showed little improvement over the past two years, and math gains were slower than in previous years, according to a study released yesterday. The disappointing results came despite a new educational testing law championed by the Bush administration as a way to improve the nation's schools.
Most troubling for educators are the sluggish reading skills among middle-school students, which have remained virtually unchanged for 15 years, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which administers the federal test and bills itself as the "nation's report card."
By some measures, students were making greater gains before the law was put into effect.
"The absence of really bad news isn't the same as good news, and if you're concerned about education and closing achievement gaps, there's simply not enough good news in these national results," said Ross Wiener, policy director of the Education Trust, a group that seeks to bring attention to the needs of poor and minority students and has consistently supported the federal law.
But Bush's faith remains unshaken.
Mr. Bush, meeting with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at the White House, said he was pleased with the test. "It shows there's an achievement gap in America that is closing," Mr. Bush said.
A simple mind might think that NCLB has caused the slowing of the rate of test score improvement.
From 2000 to 2003, before the federal law took full effect in classrooms, the percentage of fourth graders scoring proficient in math rose eight percentage points, compared with four points this year, Mr. Jennings said, and the percentage of eighth graders proficient in math rose three points before the law, compared with the one-point rise this year.
The law has as a goal the closure of the proficiency gap by 2014. But projections of current trends show that the date is unrealistic. Perhaps we just need to learn patience and wait 200 years.
Fourth-grade math students showed some of the most rapid progress in closing the achievement gap between black and white students, Mr. Kingsbury said. Extrapolating from those results, he said, black and white students would probably be performing at equal proficiency levels by 2034. Other results, like eighth-grade reading, suggest it will take 200 years or more for the gap to close, he said.
All this talk assumes that the performance gap is even closable using better teaching methods. I believe that the closure of the proficiency gap solely depends on offspring genetic engineering for enhanced cognitive capabilities. When will such biotechnology become readily available, cheap, and commonplace? Some years after that point the gap might cose. But even ready availability of the means to add intelligence-enhancing alleles to offspring is not a guarantee that all races will use the technology equally. So there's no guarantee the gap will ever close.
The Bush Administration is arguing that immigrants with a lack of English language proficiency are keeping down progress in reading. Well, certainly that's a contributing factor. A President who was really worried about that problem might even decide to stop the influx of immigrants who can't seem to attain a high level of English language proficiency. But we know that Mr. Bush has other priorities. However, if only immigrant language proficiencies were holding back reading improvements we would expect on a state level we'd see progress in states that aren't seeing much in immigration. But all tested states had no progress or got worse in reading.
At grade 8, no state had a higher average score in 2005 than in 2003, and 7 states had lower scores.
More effort put into raising the scores of less bright kids has hit a point of diminishing returns. Those kids are not going to start functioning at the level of bright kids. Therefore the gap between the races and between the economic classes will remain and progress will slow further. Bush's educational policy is guided by the politically correct view of racial differences in cognitive ability as laid down and enforced by the inequality taboo. As long as America's discussion of education is founded on falsehoods about human nature unrealistic policies will get enacted to pursue impossible goals.
At the fourth grade level, the disparity between rich and poor was evident. According to the results, only 14 percent of Connecticut's economically disadvantaged students scored at or above the proficient level for reading, while 48 percent of their economically well-off peers reached the same level. That gap has persisted since 1998.
Meanwhile, the performance gap between whites and minorities on the eighth grade reading test has endured. While 42 percent of white students scored at or above the proficient level, only 11 percent of black students and 13 percent of Hispanic students reached the same goal. Fifty percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students were proficient or better.
Check out graphs on 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores over time. Note the "Accomodations Permitted" for handicapped people starting in 1996. That provides an additional way for schools to puff up their scores. The 8th grade scores strike me as more important because 8th graders are closer to the final product level of knowledge at the end of 12 grade or at the point where kids drop out of school.
Press emphasis on small fluctuations and increases in scores distract from a more important deeper pattern. Comparison across races is best done using standard deviations rather than the misleading changes in absolute percentage differences that the national politicians and the press prefer. The standard deviation differences between the races change little across decades. As long the standard deviation differences remain outside mainstream public policy discussions about educational outcomes and race the vast bulk of the public policy debates will take place based on a foundation of lies.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 October 21 07:25 PM Education|