Independent Test Results Show NCLB Failing

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - January 2008

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) show little overall improvement in math and reading since No Child Left Behind became law, and no closing of score gaps between racial minorities and whites. This parallels state and national results on the same tests (Examiner, October 2007). Two international reports also demonstrate no change in U.S. scores since enactment of NCLB. Taken together with the extensive evidence of many harmful consequences from NCLB, these findings show the federal education law needs a thorough overhaul.

TUDA includes 10 urban districts that voluntarily participate in NAEP. In grade 8 reading, these districts as a whole showed no progress since NCLB was enacted, the same as the nation. Grade 4 reading saw slow progress, comparable to the nation's, with the rate of improvement having slowed since NLCB’s passage. In math, progress in grade 4 was very slightly better than in the nation as a whole. Only in grade 8 math was progress in the urban districts notably faster than the national rate.

In most of the subjects and tests, two cities prominent for their roles as 'poster cities' for NCLB-like reforms, Chicago and Houston, showed among the smallest gains.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) periodically assesses student learning at age 15 in three subjects, science, math and reading. Tests were administered in 2006 to students in the 30 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and 27 less economically developed countries.

In science and math, U.S. results remained largely unchanged from 2003 to 2007, with scores below the average of other developed (OECD) nations in science and math.(U.S. reading results were thrown out because the tests were misprinted and neither the test contractor nor the federal government caught the error.) Other data gathered for the studies show a wider gap between high and low-scorers in the U.S. than in many other nations, with low-income and minority-group students performing particularly poorly. High scoring nations such as Finland tend to have much less variation between schools than does the U.S., though Finland does have substantial socioeconomic differences in its population.

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) compares the reading attainment of 9 and 10 year-old children in over 40 countries. U.S. scores from tests administered in 2006 were essentially unchanged from 2001, largely mirroring NAEP results. As in other studies, the U.S. gaps between high and low scorers were large.

Each of these tests has a somewhat different focus and approach, meaning they may not line up well with the curriculum in any particular state or school. However, taken together, they suggest that NCLB has failed to improve educational outcomes in U.S. schools.