No Child Left Behind Did Little to Close the Achievement Gap

Nationwide Assessment Shows Racial Score Gaps Narrowed In ‘70s and ‘80s, But Haven’t Changed Much Since 1998. According to the National Education Association, “If you didn’t know about NCLB, you would never guess that something bold and drastic was taking place right now in our schools. Reading scores are fairly level. The achievement gap has shrunk a little… Math scores are trending upward (as they did during the 70s) but they’re not rising faster than they were before NCLB, and math achievement gaps show little progress. This is not what success looks like. The bottom line: this strategy doesn’t work.” NEA included the following charts:


[National Education Association, January 2009]

The Bush Library Touts Gains Minority Students Made During Bush’s Tenure. The following photograph is from the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum:


[George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum Display, photo taken May 3-4, 2013]

A Decade After No Child Left Behind, “Too Many Are Still Being Left Behind.” According to the Modesto Bee, “The No Child Left Behind Act rode in on a white horse, with the pledge of success for every student. Tying goals to federal funding for poor students put teeth behind that dreamy smile. After a decade dedicated to helping struggling students, however, in-depth reading tests show no real change. Differences in achievement between ethnic groups have budged only slightly — too many are still being left behind.” [Modesto Bee, 1/12/12]

Rising Test Scores Do Not Necessarily Reflect Increased Learning. According to David Berliner, an Arizona State University researcher and educational psychologist, in the Washington Post, “A rise in test scores leads most people to believe good things are happening in their schools. Not unreasonably, politicians and parents alike infer that students have learned more when test scores go up. But since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law was passed that inference may be unwarranted. Sadly, there are numerous reasons why rising test scores may not be related to increases in student learning. 1). Virtually all states have changed the passing score on tests so that more children are classified proficient. […] 2). School districts across the nation engage in excessive, perhaps unethical, and, in some cases, illegal test preparation. This results in higher test scores, but not necessarily greater learning. […] 3) Familiarity with the objectives and the items on a test invariably results in increased test scores. […] 4) The test items we use do not tap the knowledge we really want to assess. […] 5) Afraid they could be fired or their schools closed because of NCLB test scores, district and school administrators invent ways to prevent the poorest performing students from taking tests. […] 6) It is common for scores to go up because of cheating.” [David Berliner,The Washington Post, 10/1/09]

Between 2004 And 2008, Gap Between Scores Of Minority Students And White Students Did Not Significantly Narrow. According to the New York Times, “The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency. Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W. Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.” [New York Times, 4/28/09]