"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CRP Report: NCLB Increasing Segregation and Damaging Learning

Press Release from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA:

Heinrich Mintrop: (415) 250-0156
Gail L. Sunderman: (571) 217-7004

Los Angeles—April 22, 2009—A new report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, a non-partisan research center which has been systematically studying the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) since its inception, finds that some of the basic assumptions of the law are not working and may well be making things worse. In this study, Why High Stakes Accountability Sounds Good but Doesn't Work-- And Why We Keep on Doing It Anyway, commissioned by the Civil Rights Project, Researchers Gail Sunderman and Heinrich Mintrop evaluate whether the accountability system endorsed by NCLB is likely to succeed or fail, and whether it is compatible with what researchers across the country have learned about the conditions needed for lasting school reforms.

The report finds that NCLB is failing on three fronts. First, there is little evidence that high stakes accountability under NCLB works. It has not improved student achievement and the sanctions have had limited effects in producing real improvement. The law also is not very good at accurately identifying schools needing improvement and far outstrips the ability of states to intervene effectively in the schools it sanctions. Third, the law has failed to connect in a meaningful way to the educators who must implement it -- they do not see the accountability goals as realistic and consider the sanctions to be misguided and counterproductive for improving schools.

The most important finding is the damage the NCLB is doing to our educational system. Under NCLB, the system "works" when education systems operate within only a basic skills framework and with low test rigor. The cost to our nation is revealed in an educational system stuck in low-level intellectual work.

Civil Rights Project Co-Director, Gary Orfield, concludes, "The new administration has a unique opportunity to address the serious structural problems of NCLB and to forge a more constructive and effective federal role. To persist in sound-bite educational politics that sound tough but have failed for a generation would be a tragic mistake. To claim that it would further the civil rights of children increasingly segregated in schools that have been officially branded and sanctioned as failures -- but not provided help that makes a real difference -- would be a blunder."

Even though the law is failing in some critical respects, the authors argue that we may maintain NCLB anyway because many derive secondary benefits from the system, specifically those who are politically and ideologically committed to NCLB and those deriving economic or political benefits from the law.

A copy of the full report can be found at the link below.

The Executive Summary and Foreword (by Gary Orfield) follow at the end of this press advisory. Copies of CRP's previously released NCLB reports may also be found on our Web site.

About the Authors:

Heinrich Mintrop, Ph.D. taught middle school and high school for over a decade in both the United States and Germany. He received a Ph.D. in education from Stanford University in 1996. He is currently an associate professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley. As a researcher, he explores issues of school improvement and accountability in both their academic and civic dimensions. He has recently published the book Schools on Probation: How Accountability Works (and Doesn't Work) at Teachers College Press. At UC Berkeley, he is involved in programs that prepare strong leaders for high-need urban schools.

Gail Sunderman, Ph.D. is a Senior Research Scientist at the George Washington University Center on Equity and Excellence in Education where she directs the Mid Atlantic Equity Center (MAEC). Prior to that, she directed a five-year study examining the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 for the CRP. She is co-author of the book, NCLB Meets School Realities: Lessons from the Field (with James S. Kim and Gary Orfield, 2005) and editor of Holding NCLB Accountable: Achieving Accountability, Equity, and School Reform, published in 2008. She is a former Fulbright Scholar to Afghanistan and received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago.

Download the Report: Why High Stakes Accountability Sounds Good but Doesn't Work-- And Why We Keep on Doing It Anyway (in PDF Format) What is pdf?

Download the Press Release: New Study by UCLA's Civil Rights Project: NCLB Ignores What We Know about School Change and Is Motivated by Politics (in PDF Format) What is pdf?

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