NAEP Reading and Math Score Trends Show State High-Stakes Tests and "No Child Left Behind" Fail to Spur Educational Improvements

for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell: (239) 699-0468

for immediate release, Thursday, July 14, 2005 "The generally lackluster performance reported by the National
Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) demonstrates the failure of the test-and-punish approach to meaningfully improve the quality of schooling for U.S. children," according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

"Stagnant results for 17-year-olds indicate that soaring high
school exit exam passing percentages reported by many states, such as Texas and Florida, reflect test score 'pollution,' not real learning gains," explained FairTest Public Education Director Robert Schaeffer. "Drilling test questions, narrowing the curriculum, pushing low-scorers out of school, and other unethical behaviors including outright cheating can inflate scores on state exams, but educational performance measured by a more neutral measure, such as NAEP, does not improve."

Schaeffer continued, "This is the predictable result of the
widespread misuse of tests by states as the sole factor to measure student and school performance, a practice that is now reinforced by the so-called "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) law. Predictably, the U.S. Department of Education is cherry-picking the data to falsely claim that its failed approach is actually improving school quality."

Among the points cited by FairTest to refute claims by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and other test promoters:

  • NCLB did not go into effect until the 2002-2003 school year; hence it could not have been the primary cause of any positive changes between 1999 and 2004;
  • The recent improvement in NAEP scores for nine year olds simply accelerates the progress made in the 1990s; and
  • Much of the narrowing of NAEP test score gaps between White, Black and Hispanic students took place in the 1970s and 1980s, before most state and federal high-stakes testing mandates were even in place.

FairTest is one of more than 50 national education and civil rights groups that has called for a comprehensive overhaul of "No Child Left Behind" to focus on lasting school reform.