NAEP Results Produce More Evidence of NCLB's Failure

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner, July 2009

Despite billions of dollars spent on a test-and-punish approach to school "reform," the latest "Long Term Trend" report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides more evidence that the federal No Child Left Behind Law (NCLB) is a failure. With few exceptions, the rate of improvement slowed compared with the pre-NCLB period across three age groups and two subjects. At the same time, score gaps between blacks and whites as well as Hispanics and whites did not significantly narrow.

The NAEP results show that NCLB is unable to produce sustained and significant improvements even on standardized tests in the two subjects on which it focuses, reading and math. Since NCLB began, state test scores have typically increased, but NAEP results have failed to show similar increases. This is a clear sign that schools are pressured to narrow curriculum and teach to the state tests. Inflated state test scores do not mean real learning has improved.

Numerous research reports have shown NCLB has led to narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, organizational chaos, educator resentment, and other educational damage. Opinion surveys have shown increasing public dislike of the law and strong opposition to the law's emphases on testing and sanctions.

The Obama administration and the Congress must take the necessary steps to craft helpful, not harmful, federal legislation to replace NCLB. The Forum on Educational Accountability, chaired by FairTest, has produced a blueprint to rewrite the law to focus on improving schools not just inflating state test scores. Empowering Schools and Improving Learning has been signed by 84 national education, civil rights, religious, disability, parent, labor and civic groups (see story, this issue).