Independent Test Results Show NCLB Fails


No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was signed into law in 2002, the latest version of the long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Its provisions, such as testing grades 3-8 annually in reading and math and punitive sanctions, took effect over the next several years. The law is eight years overdue for reauthorization by Congress. In 2015, both the House and Senate approved reauthorization bills and as of October 2015 are working on a compromise.

NCLB provided that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) should be the primary means for evaluating the success of NCLB. We can also consider evidence such as scores on the SAT and ACT college admissions exams and on the international PISA exams.

Here are key findings, comparing the rate of progress pre- and post NCLB for NAEP and recent trends on SAT and ACT tests:

  • The rate of progress in math at grades 4 and 8 was faster in the decade before NCLB took effect than since, overall and for most groups. That includes Blacks, English Language Learners (ELLs), students with disabilities, and Hispanics at grade 4.There has been not gain at grade 4 since 2007. Grade 8 rose 15 points from 92-03, but only 5 points since.
  • Reading scores have risen very slowly since about 1990.
  • The closing of score gaps slowed since 2007 for most groups. Gaps widened for students with disabilities. Some closing in 2015 was due to greater declines in white scores.
  • Score gains slowed after NCLB for English language learners, while score gaps increased between ELLs and non-ELLs.
  • In three of four grades/tests, scores for students with disabilities grew faster prior to NCLB than under NCLB. Under NCLB, gaps with whites have generally widened.
  • Scores for high school students have stagnated. NAEP scores were highest for blacks, and gaps the narrowest, in 1988. Hispanic scores and gaps have stagnated since NCLB.
  • The slowing of progress is seen in average scores and in percentage of students attaining the “proficient” level.
  • SAT scores declined from 2006 to 2015 for all demographic groups except Asians.
  • ACT scores have been flat since 2010 for all demographic groups.
  • PISA scores have declined from 2002 to 2012.

NCLB’s failure even to raise scores on other standardized exams should be considered in light of widespread evidence of curriculum narrowing and extensive teaching to the test. Other serious problems, such as pushing low-scorers out of school and widespread cheating scandals, are also part of the steep price paid for NCLB’s testing fixation.

The documents attached present the evidence in detail.

Attachment Size
2015Oct-NAEP-ResultsReport.pdf 322.62 KB