ACT/SAT Scores Show Test-Driven “Reform” Failure

University Testing

FairTest Examiner, September 2011

Declining SAT and ACT score trends for the nation’s high school graduates show that “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) and state high-stakes testing programs are undermining school quality, even when measured by other standardized exams. A new FairTest analysis ( shows that overall SAT averages dropped significantly under the NCLB federal testing mandate.

At the same time, gaps between Whites, Asians, and historically disadvantaged African-Americans and Hispanics have been growing larger. ACT scores demonstrated similar patterns ( Scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also indicate that learning growth slowed in the NCLB era. Under NCLB, every public school student must be tested annually in grades three through eight and at least once in high school in both reading and math.

Proponents of NCLB and similar state-level, high-stakes testing programs promised that overall achievement would improve while score gaps would narrow. Precisely the opposite has taken place. With exploding cheating scandals and declines in college readiness scores, how many wake-up calls do policy-makers need before they admit that their test-and-punish strategy is a failure? They need to embrace very different policies, such as those advocated by the Forum on Educational Accountability, if they are committed to real education reform.

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