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Northwest Evaluation Association Announces Study on Effects of NCLB

Posted Apr 18, 2005
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Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) researchers have released a new study that indicates student achievement has improved since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was passed, but student growth has declined slightly. In fact, according to the announcement of the study, if change in achievement of the magnitude seen so far continues, it won't bring schools close to the requirement of 100 percent proficiency by 2014. The study is entitled "The Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on student Achievement and Growth: 2005 Edition."

The researchers define growth as the difference in scores for a single student from one point in time to another, and achievement level as the score that a student has at one point in time, such as a score from a standardized test.

The study also evaluated achievement gaps among ethnic groups. It found that students with different ethnicities who had the same initial test scores grew differently. Most noteworthy, Hispanics academically grew less than Anglos, the NWEA announcement states.

"We present this study as a baseline, recognizing that NCLB is a work in progress, and changes are continually being made that can affect the outcome from one year to the next," said Allan Olson, NWEA's executive director. "Our goal is to conduct a similar study annually, to help inform the progress educators are making toward improving learning for all students."

The researchers evaluated reading data from more than 320,000 students in third through eighth grade at more than 200 school districts located in 23 states across the country. They also looked at math data from more than 334,000 students in the same grades at more than 200 districts in 22 states. They compared academic growth and achievement scores in the 2001-2002 school year to growth and scores in the 2003-2004 school year.

As seen in other studies, the researchers report that achievement scores on state tests for math and reading have improved under NCLB; however, student growth has declined, according to the study. Overall, changes in mathematics growth are greater than those in reading. Also, student achievement levels and growth have improved more in grades in which state tests have been implemented than in those grades that do not participate in their state test.

The study was designed with scientifically based research methodology, the announcement states. Study data were supplied through NWEA's Growth Research Database, which includes assessment data gathered from NWEA member districts. These data provide a detailed look at academic growth, and aggregated proficiency levels. Additionally, the tests from which the data are derived are more sensitive for low- and high-performing students, giving a more accurate picture of achievement.

The study builds on findings that NWEA released in April 2004 and November 2003. The 2004 study indicated that Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures are not a complete picture for judging school effectiveness. The 2003 study demonstrated that state standards of proficiency differ substantially from state to state, grade to grade, and subject to subject.

The new report is available, as is an executive summary, at

Source: Northwest Evaluation Association,

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