Last week USA Today provided a good example of how wishful thinking gets in the way of common sense judgments. When NAEP reported a 9-point drop in the achievement gap for 9-year olds between 1999 and 2004, those who had already experienced the conversion to the utopian promises of NCLB raised their voices in hallelujahs. NCLB works!
Think about it. NCLB was signed by the President in early 2002. States began the steroidal testing policy in 2003. The NAEP tests were given in the Spring of 2004. Could it too early to attribute the demise of the achievement gap to a policy that had one year to work?
And even though NAEP has urged caution about attributing "cause" to any changes, such caution does not apply to those who view every event as an opportunity for political gain. And if there is no political gain to be attained, then we can pretend that nothing happened. If the NAEP scores in 2009 show the achievement gap holding or widening, don't look for USA Today to attribute any shortcoming to the political policies to which the paper has already subscribed.