Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

NCLB Reforms Penalize Diverse Schools


Los Angeles - Thousands of schools are falling short of Washington's new standards, not due to faltering achievement overall, but because their
student diversity triggers federal sanctions more readily than schools serving less varied children, according to a new study.

The No Child Left Behind Act, championed by President Bush and approved with bipartisan support almost two years ago, tries to pinpoint schools that fail to boost achievement. Over 3,000 of California's 7,669 schools were deemed "needing improvement" by Washington's standards this fall.

But the new study reveals that schools serving more than one student subgroup - whether in suburban or urban areas - face longer odds in
reaching federal growth standards, even when achievement levels are identical.

Middle-class high schools serving just two student groups, such as white and learning-disabled children, were one-fifth more likely to meet growth targets than schools serving two additional groups. Overall achievement levels were quite similar between the two sets of schools.

"We discovered hundreds of suburban schools that the feds have penalized, schools that are improving but guilty of enrolling diverse
children," said John Novak a statistician at the University of Southern California who coauthored the study.

The new findings will likely fuel an already enflamed debate over the efficacy of President Bush's intensively regulated efforts to reform
America's schools. Almost one in seven students nationwide now attends school in California.

Diverse elementary schools in low-income areas outperformed schools serving more racially isolated students (schools with fewer subgroups)
in reading. But the more diverse schools were 30 percent less likely to hit growth targets and be subjected to federal sanctions.

To pass Washington's muster all schools must test 95 percent of each subgroup - disabled students, ethnic groups, those with limited English or from low-income homes. Failing just one of upwards of 20 separate targets brings federal sanctions, first allowing parents to choose another school and later replacing school staff if performance remains flat.

"Washington's good intentions have gone awry," said Bruce Fuller, a Berkeley professor and co-author of the study. "The odds of flipping a
silver dollar and getting three tails in a row are simply lower than flipping one tails."

The study was conducted by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), an institute based at Stanford and the University of California.

— John R. Novak and Bruce Fuller
Penalizing Diverse Schools?
Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE)


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.