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Student Achievement Gains have Slowed Since NCLB

New research shows that states were making more progress in raising student test scores in the 1990s than they have since enactment of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2002.

The study is reported in the current issue of Education Researcher, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published by the prestigious American Educational Research Association.

AERA said the researchers pushed beyond earlier studies by tracking progress in both state and federal test scores in 12 diverse states, going back to 1992 in many cases. This approach captured the generally positive effects of maturing state-led accountability programs in both reading and math, gauged by state officials and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

According to AERA's news release, Bruce Fuller, lead author and professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that the strong advances in narrowing racial and income-based achievement gaps seen in the 1990s have faded since passage of 'No Child'.

"The slowing of achievement gains, even declines in reading, since 2002 suggests that state-led accountability efforts -- well underway by the mid-1990s -- packed more of a punch in raising student performance, compared with the flattening-out of scores during the 'No Child' era," Fuller said.

The researchers studied test results 12 states, including Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington because these states are demographically diverse, geographically dispersed, and were able to provide comparable test score data over time.

They found that, after climbing steadily during the 1990s, reading scores on NAEP tests declined in all 12 states following enactment of NCLB.

AERA said the annual rise in the percentage of fourth-graders proficient in mathematics improved slightly in the same 12 states, moving up from 1.6 percent per year before 'No Child' was signed to a yearly growth rate of 2.5 percent following enactment of the law. This is the one out of six federal gauges where a post-NCLB gain was observed by the research team tracking NAEP results.

"Gauging Growth: How to Judge No Child Left Behind" is authored by Fuller, Joseph Wright, Kathryn Gesicki, and Erin Kang.