Thursday, July 17, 2008

National study: Students improve since No Child Left Behind

Here's the link to the full report "Has Student Achievement Increased Since 2002? State Test Score Trends Through 2006–07" by CEP. -Patricia

Researchers, though, stop short of crediting 2002 federal act for gains.

By Laura Heinauer
Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Student achievement in math and reading is increasing, and the gap in performance, particularly among black and low-income students and their white and non-low-income peers, has narrowed in most states since the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2002, according to a study released Tuesday.

Texas especially has made significant performance gains in recent years, according to the researchers at the Center on Education Policy, an independent nonprofit Washington-based research group.

Researchers stopped short of crediting the federal act for improvements, saying many programs are in place to raise achievement. The study follows up on one from last year that was criticized for trying to compare student test performance before and after the act was passed.

Jack Jennings, the center's president, said, "What we're reporting today is ... positive, realistic news that we can document."

Shortcomings with this year's study were also pointed out: There is no control group for comparison. The study did not consider results from states that changed testing policies and had less than three years of data to analyze. As a result, 43 states were represented in the results.

The study looked at Texas results from 2005 to 2007 and found that students made moderate to large gains in both reading and math at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Texas was one of only eight states, out of 27 evaluated, to show gains at the high school level. And middle and elementary school performance mirrored that in most other states. The study showed that achievement gaps narrowed in most groups in Texas.

Tuesday's results gave ammunition to advocates both of the current system and to those who would reduce the emphasis of the Texas' high-stakes achievement test.

David Thompson, a consultant with Raise Your Hand, a Texas-based group wanting to focus more on individual student progress, said, "Tests clearly have a role, but not the only role."

State Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, is co-chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Public School Accountability, which is expected to offer recommendations to the Legislature in December. Eissler said lawmakers are considering ways to tweak the state system so it is more user-friendly and even better at improving academic performance.

Now, students in third grade must pass the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills to be promoted; students in fifth and eight grades must pass reading and math for promotion. Lawmakers have revised a requirement for students to pass the TAKS in order to graduate high school.

Sandy Kress, who serves with Eissler on the state committee and who was a senior adviser to President Bush on the federal law, said, "When we see results like this, that ought to give us pause in considering making radical changes. ... If we do anything, we maybe ought to strengthen the system."

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