NCLB Education: Reality-Testing
Proponents of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law have charged critics with creating "myths" about the law and have issued their own "facts." It's time to look at the evidence for a reality check on NCLB's claims of success. 
THE CLAIM: Proponents say higher test scores prove NCLB is working.
THE REALITY: Rising test scores are primarily the result of repetitive drilling for the narrow content the exams cover, not real educational improvements. Groups that have long struggled, like special education and English language learners and many low-income minority students, continue to do so - in fact, they may be falling further behind.
- Some state test scores have risen, but reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have not. (NAEP math scores began rising prior to NCLB's passage.) Most test experts agree that score gains on one test mean little if there are not parallel improvements on tests that are not taught to, such as NAEP.  Instruction in reading and math increasingly resembles test preparation, which is why scores often rise on state tests, but not on NAEP.
- Texas is the NCLB model state. Due to a decade of intensive teaching to the TAAS test, scores rose dramatically and the racial score gap narrowed. But the gains were not confirmed and the racial gap did not close on NAEP or on the state's college admissions exam. In fact, Texas colleges reported in-state high school graduates needed more, not less, remediation after high-stakes testing was introduced.
- Study after study has found that a focus on reading and math tests causes schools to downplay science, history, art, physical education and even recess in order to boost scores.
THE CLAIM: Education Trust and other NCLB proponents say, "[E]arly evidence from states at the forefront of implementing rigorous accountability and instructional support systems demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that public schools are capable of meeting the expectations in the law."  Supporters also point to an increase in the number of schools that made "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) under NCLB as evidence of success.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
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