Study: NCLB led to lost decade for school progress

Published on Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A new study marking the 10th anniversary of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) finds that the law “failed badly both in terms of its own goals and more broadly.” Published by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest), the study reviewed National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and other data.

“NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure?” found that NCLB neither significantly increased academic performance nor significantly reduced achievement gaps, even as measured by standardized exams. In fact, because of the law’s reliance on one-size-fits-all testing, labeling and sanctioning schools, the study found it undermined many education reform efforts. Many schools, particularly those serving low-income students, have become little more than test-preparation programs.

Other findings include:

  • As measured by NAEP scores, U.S. students made greater gains before NCLB became law than after it was implemented.
  • NCLB severely damaged educational quality and equity by narrowing the curriculum in many schools and focusing attention on the limited skills standardized tests measure.

The study urges policy makers to “abandon their faith-based embrace of test-and-punish strategies and, instead, pursue proven alternatives to guide and support the nation’s neediest schools and students.”

President George W. Bush signed NCLB into law on Jan. 8, 2002.  It is due for reauthorization by Congress, although little action is expected prior to the 2012 Presidential election.


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