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Evidence on Education under NCLB (and How Florida Boosted NAEP Scores and Reduced the Race Gap)

Susan Notes: Walt Haney shows that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Haney notes that "Florida’s apparent success on NAEP, not surprisingly, has been touted by that state’s Governor, Jeb Bush. In an August 13, 2006 essay in the Washington Post (with his improbable co-author Michael Bloomberg), the Florida Governor wrote:

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 sent an enormously important message to politicians and educators across America: Stop making excuses for low student achievement and start holding your schools accountable for results. Florida and New York City are leaders when it comes to accountability in education. We have set high expectations for all students, and in key grades we have eliminated social promotion, the harmful practice of pushing unprepared students ahead. We grade schools based on student performance and growth so that parents and the public, as well as school administrators, know which schools are working well and which are not. Our emphasis on accountability is a big reason our schools are improving, our students are performing at higher levels and we're closing the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers. (Bush & Bloomberg, 2006)

The Bush-Bloomberg duo went on to say “The well-respected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is administered in every state, should become an official benchmark for evaluating states' standards.” Haney describes what had really happened in Florida. "It turns out that the apparent dramatic gains in grade 4 NAEP math results are simply an indirect reflection of the fact that in 2003-04, Florida started flunking many more students, disproportionately minority students, to repeat grade 3.

Paper presented at the Hechinger Institute "Broad Seminar for K-12 Reporters", Grace
Dodge Hall, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, Sept. 8-10, 2006


The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has brought increased attention to the rating of school quality in terms of student performance on state math and reading tests. Because state are of uneven quality, the emphasis on test-based accountability has also focused more attention on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) as a check on state test results. In this paper I discuss why results on NAEP are dubious bases for reaching summary judgments regarding school quality. As one way of demonstrating this, I explain why the 2005 NAEP math grade 4 results for Florida are highly misleading. Implications for the reform of NCLB legislation are discussed.

— Walter M. Haney
Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Education Policy



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