Education Week - January 7, 2016 - Quality Counts - (Page 8)
EDUCATION WEEK | January 7, 2016
HIGHLIGHTING NCLB-ERA RESEARCH
BY SARAH D. SPARKS
In the past 15 years, education researchers have tracked the wake of a tsunami of education changes that swept through states under the No Child Left Behind Act-the 2002 revision
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act-from new ways of holding schools accountable for student achievement to national experiments on school improvement.
There followed enough research to fill a school auditorium-70,000 articles, by one rough estimate, and still counting-with academics in fields from psychology to economics to
political science weighing in on the debate. In the barest terms, lawmakers' goal to have 100 percent of students reading and solving math problems on grade level by 2014 has not
come to pass-but the research is decidedly mixed on whether the law's multitude of accountability provisions were effective or not.
The following summaries highlight studies on key aspects of accountability published after 2007, when the law was originally scheduled to be reauthorized, and that looked at the main
implementation of the law, excluding individual state waivers provided under the Obama administration.
CLOSING ACHIEVEMENT GAPS
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
"State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left
Behind Act: Volume IX, Accountability Under NCLB: Final
"Left Behind? The Effect of No Child Left Behind on
Academic Achievement Gaps"
"The Impact of No Child Left Behind's Accountability
Sanctions on School Performance: Regression
Discontinuity Evidence from North Carolina"
BASICS: This 2010 report was the final product of
two massive federal research projects on the law,
conducted by the RAND Corp. and the American
Institutes for Research. It found that more than half
of schools identified for improvement under NCLB by
2006-07 were clustered in only 177 districts. Three out
of five schools nationwide met the law's yardstick of
adequate yearly progress, or AYP, in 2005-06- "a nearly
identical proportion as in 2003-04 and 2004-05." Only 1
in 5 schools actually changed ratings from year to year,
and fewer than 1 in 10 improved in their accountability
designation. Nevertheless, states varied significantly
in how many schools were identified for improvement,
based largely on the strictness of their initial AYP
targets; the proportion of states' schools making AYP
ranged from 90 percent to less than 30 percent.
BASICS: The Stanford University study, funded by
the Institute of Education Sciences and released in
2012, compared the average trends in achievement
gaps within states from 1990 to 2011 and
analyzed the size of gaps in states with different
concentrations of minority students. Overall, the
study found average racial achievement gaps
did not close significantly under the NCLB law.
Achievement gaps between black and Hispanic
students and white students narrowed under the
law in states that started out with larger racial
gaps and school segregation and in states with
stricter targets for racial minorities-but the
achievement gaps widened in states that had
started out with smaller concentrations of minority
students and thus less accountability pressure for
individual groups of students.
CAUTIONS: The study provides a comprehensive and
detailed look at implementation across the country,
but it is generally descriptive and leaves open why the
implementation and effects of the law varied so much
from state to state.
CAUTIONS: The study did not look at potential
disparities in the number of minority students who
were not tested under the accountability system
because of their disability status, intermittent
enrollment, or other testing rules.
"The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Student
"Revisiting the Impact of NCLB High-Stakes School
Accountability, Capacity, and Resources: State NAEP
1990-2009 Reading and Math Achievement Gaps and
BASICS: This study, published in 2011 in the Journal of
Policy Analysis and Management, compared changes
in math and reading test scores between states that
had accountability systems in place before NCLB and
those that started their systems after the law passed.
It found the NCLB law's passage was associated with
significant improvements in the growth of math-test
performance among 4th graders on the National
Assessment of Educational Progress and with
improvements for low-achieving students and those
in poverty in 8th grade. It found no improvements in
reading at either grade. The study also suggested that
expansion of preschool education in the 1990s would
not explain achievement growth seen during the NCLB
CAUTIONS: The study used a comparative interrupted
time series, which is not considered as strong a method
as an experimental or quasi-experimental design. Other
studies since, however, have also repeated its findings
using NAEP data.
BASICS: This 2012 study in the journal Educational
Evaluation and Policy Analysis compared changes
in the main NAEP performance in 4th and 8th
grade reading and math from 1990 through 2009,
in states that had accountability systems before
NCLB and those that did not. It found racial gaps
in 8th grade math closed by a small but significant
amount, 1/20th of a standard deviation, under
NCLB, but found no effects on achievement gaps
in reading or in 4th grade math. Moreover, the
researchers suggested the changes in achievement
gaps were explained better by long-term state
teaching capacity than by states' rigor in
implementing NCLB accountability.
CAUTIONS: The researchers noted that states'
implementation was too diverse to make conclusions
about the effectiveness of the accountability system as
BASICS: The 2014 study from the National Bureau of
Economic Research analyzed student-level data from
the North Carolina public school system, comparing
schools that barely missed or made adequate yearly
progress. It found schools at the start and end of
the NCLB penalties-being labeled as not meeting
standards or undergoing leadership and organizational
changes during school restructuring-improved
significantly, with the lowest-performing students
showing the most improvement. Still, the study also
found no evidence of improved performance at schools
entering intermediate penalties, such as being required
to pay for private tutoring for students.
CAUTIONS: While the study used a statewide sample
and regression discontinuity, a well-regarded quasiexperimental research design, it looked only at the
performance of students in a single state, North Carolina.
"State and Local Implementation of the No Child Left
Behind Act: Volume IV, Title I School Choice and
Supplemental Educational Services: Interim Report"
BASICS: The fourth study in a large federal research
project conducted by the RAND Corp. and the American
Institutes for Research (see final report, above)
looked at implementation and the effects of two early
penalties under the NCLB law. They required schools
that repeatedly failed to make AYP to allow students to
transfer to higher-achieving schools, dubbed "school
choice," or to pay for them to receive tutoring by private
groups, known as "supplemental educational services."
By 2006-07, researchers found neither option was
particularly well-used: Only 1 percent of the 6.9 million
students eligible for school choice actually transferred,
and 17 percent of students eligible for tutoring received
it. Overall, the researchers found many districts had only
one school available at secondary school levels, which
prevented transfers. Moreover, because low-performing
schools tended to cluster in the same districts, there
were often few transfer options even at the elementary
level. Participation in tutoring grew from 2003-04, but
tutoring providers were less likely to offer services in
rural districts or to middle or high school students.
CAUTIONS: The study did not evaluate the
effectiveness of transferring schools or receiving
tutoring for students who participated.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 7, 2016 - Quality Counts
Education Week - Quality Counts - January 7, 2016
Tough Balancing Act on Accountability
Path to Accountability Taking Bold New Turns
Highlighting NCLB-Era Research
Student Achievement in the Era of Accountability
Quality Counts at 20
Moving Beyond Just Academics as a Way to Assess Effectiveness
At a Los Angeles School, Carving Safe Spaces to Share and Learn
States Collaborate in Pursuit of Fresh Accountability Ideas
In School Turnaround Efforts, Massachusetts Enlists Districts
Measuring Up: Latest Scorecard Puts States, Nation to the Test
Chance for Success
Sources & Notes
Education Week - January 7, 2016 - Quality Counts