NAEP Scores Mixed, NCLB Comes Under Further Scrutiny

The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) released recent reading and math results for tests that were administered through the U.S. Department of Education. Scores were mixed, giving both NCLB critics and supporters ammunition for their cause.

NAEP Scores

Subject Average Score - 4th Grade Average Score - 8th Grade
Reading 220 261
Math 239 278

Average math scores for both fourth graders and eighth graders have increased slightly. Reading scores, however, did not. Scores declined for eighth graders, and in both grades there was a decline in the percentage of students deemed 'proficient' in reading.

Mixed Reactions to NAEP Results

Supporters of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) say the law has clearly had a positive impact on the most recent NAEP math and reading scores.

'No Child Left Behind is working. It's doable, reasonable, and necessary,' said Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in press release.

President Bush called the NAEP results 'outstanding', saying the scores 'confirm that No Child Left Behind is working.'

Not everyone agrees, however. Critics of NCLB say in case after case, average achievement scores actually rose faster before the federal law was enacted than afterward. Both the American Federation of Teachers and Fair Test, an anti-testing group, were quick to point this out when NAEP test results were announced.

Between 1999 and 2004, math and reading scores improved on NAEP tests. NCLB was enacted in 2002 and implemented in the 2005/2006 school year. Since then, the rate of improvement in math and reading has slowed or, in certain cases, moved backwards.

There is also serious concern about the decline in reading scores seen among eighth graders.

'The inability of eighth grade students to demonstrate continuing growth is significant because it reflects a second type of achievement gap, one that narrows students' options just as they are beginning to make adult life choices about careers and further education,' said Linda Gambrell, president of the International Reading Association.

In the coming weeks, NAEP scores will most certainly be scrutinized by both sides of the fence, as well as policymakers who are trying to determine whether or not NCLB is working.

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