Having just been reading the animated exchange over at New Talk on the merits of preserving or axing the No Child Left Behind act, I notice that the discussants are missing some key evidence on the law’s effectiveness. The conversation has thus far revolved around results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), but there are two other sources of nationally representative score trends: PISA and PIRLS. On both of those international tests, U.S. performance has either stagnated or declined across grades and subjects over the lifespan of NCLB.
Taking these results into account, it is not possible to say with any confidence that NCLB has improved student achievement at any grade or in any subject.
It’s also worth noting that the federal government alone has spent $1.85 trillion on k-12 education since 1965, and yet the achievement gaps between the children of college graduates and those of high-school dropouts remain unchanged in reading and science. In math, the gap has shrunk by barely 1% of the 500 point score scale.
How can one look at these facts and still believe that the federal government has the power to cure our educational ills?