Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fact-checking Sandy Kress

Mike Petrilli responds to Kress:

These claims are true as far as they go. For instance, according to the NAEP, the average reading score for Black 9-year olds rose from 186 in 1999 to 204 in 2008–an increase of 18 points. (At 10 points per grade level that comes close enough to the "two grade levels" of progress Kress claims.) Hispanic 9-year olds increased their average reading scores from 213 in 1999 to 234 in 2008–an increase of 21 points. Fourth-grade students with disabilities increased their reading scores from 167 in 2000 to 189 in 2009.

But here's the kicker: almost all of these gains had occurred by 2004. For Black 9-year-olds, 78 percent of the improvement took place in the five years between 1999 and 2004, compared to 22 percent in the four years between 2004 and 2008. For Hispanic students, 81 percent of the gains occurred between 1999 and 2004, compared to 19 percent between 2004 and 2008. For fourth-grade students with disabilities, 91 percent of the gains occurred in just two years: between 2000 and 2002.

In fact, this tremendous improvement in the late 1990s and early 2000s is one of the great mysteries of education policy. Nobody knows for sure why it happened. As Kress indicates, Eric Hanushek and others have found plausible evidence to credit accountability-based reforms. But it's impossible to know whether it was "accountability" in general–or NCLB in specific–that drove the scores upward. No Child Left Behind was enacted in January 2002 and started to be implemented that fall; students had at most a year and a half of the NCLB "treatment" before sitting for the 2004 NAEP. So it's hard to argue that NCLB gets a lot of credit for these improvements.


Fact-checking Sandy Kress

Posted by Mike Petrilli on April 20th, 2011 at 10:50 am

Former Bush White House adviser (and NCLB drafter) Sandy Kress turned in a very compelling New York Daily News op-ed on Monday arguing that President Obama has gone "wobbly" on education accountability. In the piece, Kress presented impressive NAEP data illustrating the big gains that minority and special needs students have made since the late 1990s.

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