Paul Peterson

What do the latest NAEP scores tell us about NCLB?

Did the federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), close the education gap?  Now that Congress is talking about reauthorizing NCLB, it struck me that it would be worthwhile to see what the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tell us about the direction the nation has moved in the years since the law was passed–as compared to the trend line in the decade prior to its passage.

At the bottom of this post are the results I reported to a packed house at the Association of Public Policy and Management in Washington, D. C. last Saturday. They show that, for fourth graders, the black-white test score gap had, in the 12 years prior to the passage of NCLB, opened up by 7 points.  The Hispanic-white gap had opened by 5 points.  No wonder there was a demand for an accountability system that required a special look at the learning experiences of minority students.

After the law was enacted, the black-white test-score gap closed by 2 points  and the Hispanic-white gap closed by 1 point.   That is a switch in the trend line of 9 points and 6 points, respectively.  Not as much as we would like, but better than what might have been.

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