Jul 18, 2005
Test scores released last week show an improvement in student performance at the early elementary school level.
The tests, part of a study called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Long Term Trends, have been given to 9, 13 and 17-year-olds every few years since the 1970s. In the latest test, given in the 2003-2004 school year, reading and math scores for 9-year-olds went up significantly from the previous results, taken in 1999 – especially among minority students.
The Bush administration was quick to jump on this result and claim it as a success for his "No Child Left Behind" program.
But this rise in test scores can't possibly have resulted from "No Child Left Behind" – because that program hadn't even started until the last year of the 4-year period between tests.
In fact the improvement in test scores reflects greater emphasis on pre-school for three and four-year olds and efforts made to lower elementary class sizes in the 1990s.
These initiatives took an investment of money and resources, which went especially to the lower elementary level. Much less was invested at the later elementary and high school levels, and the most recent test results reflect that. Test scores at those levels, which were already abominable, did not improve at all between 1999 and 2003.
So if we want to improve student performance at all levels, we need to invest more resources – at ALL levels. But everything the federal and state governments are proposing moves in the opposite direction.
"No Child Left Behind" punishes schools with low test scores by cutting their funds. On top of that, state governments across the country are slashing THEIR schools' budgets. And now the new federal budget is slashing funds for Head Start – the ONLY federal program that has actually been shown to help student performance.
Bush and the other politicians may talk about leaving no child behind – but their actions say they are willing to leave a whole generation of children behind.