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

Saturday, March 21, 2015

NYTimes Gets It Wrong on Effects of NCLB

To see the NYTimes Editorial Board lie about education issues is entirely expected, but to see the same in news stories is a bit more disconcerting. This is from a piece yesterday on the fate of No Child Left Behind:
No Child Left Behind required the public release of test scores by race, sex, disability and family income. The release of those subgroups’ scores is broadly considered a success, bringing transparency that focused attention on children needing the most assistance, and helping to shrink achievement gaps.
In 2013, Stanford researchers concluded something quite different:

Overall, we find that racial achievement gaps have been closing slowly since 1990. This is true for both white-black and white-Hispanic gaps. Based on this trend, we turn to the period of No Child Left Behind and ask whether this federal policy, which explicitly aimed to narrow gaps between minority and nonminority students, was successful at achieving its goal. We find no consistent evidence that NCLB has narrowed achievement gaps, on average. Our estimates are very precise, and we can rule out the possibility that NCLB had, on average, meaningfully large effects (effects larger than 0.01 standard deviations change per year) on achievement gaps.
 And from p. 32, in conclusion:
Despite its intentions, there is no evidence that NCLB-style accountability has led to any substantial narrowing of achievement gaps. Although there is variation among states in the effects of NCLB, comparing the magnitude of these effects is akin to comparing the speed of different glaciers: some are retreating, some advancing, but none so fast that one would notice a meaningful difference except over a span of decades (or centuries). Even in those states where NCLB’s effects on achievement gaps have been greatest, our estimates suggest that NCLB has narrowed achievement gaps at a rate of only two-one-hundredths of a standard deviation per year. Over a student’s K-8 career, this would still only narrow the achievement gap by less than one-fifth of a standard deviation. NCLB’s framers aimed to “ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.” With respect to racial achievement gaps, our findings suggest that NCLB has not been successful at this goal. For future education policies to be more successful, we will likely have to adopt a different, perhaps more deliberate, set of strategies.

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