With Congress now attempting to rewrite the No Child Left Behind law (the current version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary School Act), it’s a good time to look at what NCLB accomplished and did not accomplish. Here’s one attempt to answer that question, and the post below is another, this one looking entirely at standardized test scores and how “achievement gaps” fared during the NCLB era. This seems only fair, since modern school reformers have made standardized test scores the chief metric of student achievement and school effectiveness.

Since data is so important to school reformers today, here’s a look at some, by Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, explains in this post. FairTest, or the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, is dedicated to eliminating the abuse and misuse of standardized tests.

By Monty Neill

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 more than seven years overdue for reauthorization by Congress. This year, both the House and Senate are showing strong interest in voting for a new version.

NCLB provided that the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) should be the primary means for evaluating the success of NCLB. (NAEP was long referred to as “the nation’s report card” because it was the only measure of student achievement given periodically to a sampling of students around the nation.) 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 on NAEP at grades 4 and 8 was generally faster in the decade before NCLB took effect than since. That is a consistent trend both overall and for individual demographic groups, including blacks, English Language Learners (ELLs) and students with disabilities.
- Score gaps in 2012 were no narrower and often wider than they were in 1998 and 1990.
- The slowdown in math was pronounced, especially at grade 4.
- In many cases, the rate of gain slowed even more after 2007.
- 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 flattened or declined, while gaps with whites remained unchanged or 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.
- SAT scores declined from 2006 to 2014 for all demographic groups except Asians.
- ACT scores have been flat since 2010 for all demographic groups.
- PISA scores have declined from 2002 to 20132.

NCLB’s failure to even 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 below present the evidence in detail.

**NAEP Score Changes 1992-2003-2007-2013**

http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013/#/gains-by-group

NAEP “Main” reports scores in reading and math every two years, including national and state-level scores, as well as by demographic groups.

*Overall:*

Math results show an overall slowdown in growth under NCLB, while reading saw very modest increase in the rate of progress.

Grade 4 math: from 1992 to 2003 scores rose 18 points, while from 2003 to 2013 they rose 7 points, but only 2 points from 2007-2013, the period in which NCLB and then Race to the Top/NCLB waivers became entrenched.

Grade 8 math: rose 18 points from 1992 to 2003, then 12 points from 2003-2013, though from 2007-2013 the gain was 4 points – again, an indicator of a slowdown in rate of progress.

Grade 4 reading: rose 1 point from 1992-2003, then 4 points from 2o03-2013.

Gr 8 reading: 1992-2003 saw a 3-point gain, then a 5-point gain from 2003-2013.

*Comparisons among White, Black and Hispanic Test-takers:*

Here are scores to compare whites, blacks, and Hispanics plus score gap changes with whites in a table; size of gaps with whites are in parentheses, and size of the group’s gain since previous test listed in the chart is in brackets; with some notes especially looking back to 2005 and 2007.

Math grade 4 | White | Black | Hispanic | Disability |

1992 | 227 | 193 (34) | 202 (25) | 204 (23) {1996} |

2003 | 243 | 216 (27) [23] | 222 (21) [20] | 214 (29) [10] |

2007 | 248 | 222 (26) [6] | 227 (21) [5] | 220 (28) [8] |

2013 | 250 | 224 (26) [2] | 231 (19) [4] | 218 (32) [-2] |

Black: No gap closure since 2003; black gain was 23 points pre-NCLB and 8 points under NCLB.

Hispanic: Gap closed 2 points since 2003; gain was 20 points pre-NCLB and 9 points under NCLB.

Disability: The gap with whites has widened, while since 2007, scores have declined 2 points.

Math grade 8 | White | Black | Hispanic | Disability |

1992 | 277 | 237(40) | 249 (28) | 231 (46){1996} |

2003 | 288 | 252 (36) [15] | 259 (29) [10] | 242 (46) [11] |

2007 | 291 | 260 (32) [8] | 265 (26) [6] | 246 (45) [4] |

2013 | 294 | 263 (31) [3] | 272 (22) [7] | 249 (45) [3] |

Black: Gap has closed only one point since 2007; gains were 15 points pre-NCLB and 11 points under NCLB.

Hispanic: Gaps closed 1 point pre-NCLB and 7 points under NCLB; gains were 10 points pre-NCLB and 13 points under NCLB.

Disability: Rate of gain slowed under NCLB, gap did not close. A look in further detail shows students with disabilities scored 249 in both 2009 and 2013, indicating zero gain during the ‘waiver’ period.

Reading grade 4 | White | Black | Hispanic | Disability |

1992 | 224 | 192 (32) | 197 (27) | 176 (48) {1998} |

2003 | 229 | 198 (31) [6] | 200 (29) [3] | 185 (44) [9] |

2007 | 231 | 203 (27) [5] | 205 (26) [5] | 191 (40) [6] |

2013 | 232 | 206 (26) [3] | 207 (25) [2] | 184 (48) [-7] |

Black: Closure was 1 point pre-NCLB and 5 points under NCLB; gains were 6 points pre NCLB and 8 points post NLCB, 3 since 2007.

Hispanic: Closed 2 points pre-NCLB and 4 points under NCLB, but from 2007 to 2013 there was a 1-point closure; gains were 3 points pre-NCLB and 7 points under NCLB, but 2 points from 2007-2013.

Disability: Scores declined markedly under NCLB after an initial rise so the 2013 scores are back to 2003 levels (just at the start of NCLB). Gap is back to 1992 level.

Reading grade 8 | White | Black | Hispanic | Disability |

1992 | 267 | 237 (30) | 241 (26) | 224 (43) {1998} |

2003 | 272 | 244 (28) [7] | 245 (27) [4] | 225 (47) [1] |

2007 | 272 | 245 (27) [1] | 247 (25) [2] | 227 (45) [2] |

2013 | 276 | 250 (26) [5] | 256 (20) [9] | 232 (44) [5] |

Black: Gap narrowed 2 points pre-NCLB and 6 points under NCLB; 7-point gain pre-NCLB and 6-point gain under NCLB, but note that data shows 1 point improvement from 2011 to 2013.

Hispanic: Gap widened 1 point pre-NCLB, narrowed 7 points under NCLB. Gains were 4 points pre-NCLB, 11 points under NLCB, with largest gain from 2007-2013.

Disability: Unlike grade 4 or both grades in math, scores rose more under NCLB while gap closed very slightly. Scores went up 1 point in 2009 and 2011, indicated only very small gains in later NCLB period.

**NAEP Long Term Trend Scores For 17-Year Olds**

Scores and gaps are largely stagnant overall for 17-year olds on the long-term NAEP. Long-term trend is a separate test from NAEP main. It has scores back to 1971 in reading. The most recent report covers the 2012 assessment administration.

*Reading: *

- Black students high score was in 1988 (274), 5 points higher than in 2012 (269). 1988 saw the narrowest score gap with whites (20 points), vs 26 points in 2012.
- Hispanics’ high score was in 1990 (275), 1 point higher than in 2012 (274). The gap was 22 points in 1990, the narrowest until it was 21 points in 2012.

*Math: *

- Blacks’ highest score was 289 in 1990, compared with 288 in 2012. The gap was 21 points in 1990 compared with 26 points in 2012.
- Hispanics’ highest score was 294 in 2012, but scores have been essentially stagnant since reaching 292 in 1992. The gap was 21 points in 1992 and 19 points in 2004 and 2012, again showing stagnation.

**English Language Learner (ELL)**

**NAEP Main Results 1998 Reading/1996 Math through 2013***

http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2013/#/gains-by-group

Overall, we see stronger gains for ELLs and greater gap closings with those who are not ELLs prior to NCLB starting to take effect.

*Math*

Grade 4

1996 – 2003 +13; gap closed 1 point

2003 – 2013 +5; gap widened 2 points

No ELL gain between 2011 and 2013

Grade 8

1996– 2003 + 16; gap closed 9 points

2003 – 2013 +4; gap widened 4 points

*Reading *

Grade 4

1998 – 2003 +12; gap closed 8 points

2003 – 2013 +1; gap widened by 4, erasing half the earlier gain

Grade 8

1998 – 2003 + 6; gap closed 3 points

2003 – 2013 +3; gap widened 2 points

** ELL Grade 12 Long Term Trend**, 2004 to 2012 (most recent long-term trend)

Reading fell 7 points from 2004 to 2012

Math scores fell 9 points 2004 to 2012.

* The earliest dates for ELL trends in NAEP main are 1996 in math and 1998 in reading.

**PISA Results Show Declines in Reading, Math and Science from 2002-2012**

Researcher Linda Darling-Hammond circulated a chart showing the decline of scores on the Program for International Student Assessment *(**PISA*) exams, given periodically to students in dozens of nations.

Source: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/04/a-stunning-graphic-on-the-failure-of-test-based-accountability/