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Tuesday, 2nd October 2007

No Child Left Behind's 'Proficiency Illusion'

No Child Left Behind's 'Proficiency Illusion'
Source: Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

The tests states use to measure academic progress and student proficiency under the No Child Left Behind Act are creating a false impression of success, especially in reading and especially in the early grades, concludes a major new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association. Analysts found that states are aiming particularly low when it comes to their expectations for younger children, setting elementary students up to fail as they progress through their academic careers.
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The study highlights a central flaw in NCLB, which allows each state to set its own definition of what constitutes "proficiency." Meanwhile, by mandating that all students reach "proficiency" by 2014, it tempts states to define proficiency downward. Nevertheless, the most widely discussed proposals to update the law would retain this flaw.

While the report did not find a "race to the bottom," with the majority of states dramatically lowering standards under pressure from NCLB, it did find a "walk to the middle," as states with high standards saw their expectations drop toward the middle of the pack and some states with low standards actually raised them.

+ Full report and individual state reports (PDFs)


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