Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NCLB Shown to be Ineffective... again.

The newest Nation's Report Card is out for the Math and Reading topics. Although gains have been made in both areas, they are strongest for the nine year old level. By the time you've reached the high school level, gains have been pretty marginal since the 1970's.

But don't let that from people saying it's effective. The education secretary, Margaret Spellings is quoted in the NY Times as saying,
It’s not an accident that we’re seeing the most improvement where N.C.L.B. has focused most vigorously.... The law focuses on math and reading in grades three through eight — it’s not about high schools. So these results are affirming of our accountability-type approach.
Wonderful. We give kids a boost early on, but still allow our education to drop the ball by the time they complete high school. That's great!

One other interesting thing I found in the Report Card is that although the gender gap in math and science is usually reported to be large, the report card shows it to be small, at least in terms of math. Although it grows by the high school level (but only to 6 points out of 500 in the most recent year), it suggests that females aren't going into science and technology fields due to a lack of preparation or ability. Rather, the lack of females in these fields is more due to cultural stigmata drawing females into other lines of work. Something for teachers to keep in mind.


Ike said...

Jon, I don't know what to make of this anymore, because the reporting on NCLB is always so slanted.

For instance, the thrust of the Times piece (from the headline) is that NCLB is a failure because it didn't eliminate the racial gap.

Further reading tells us minority children improved across the board, but the problem is those dastardly non-minority kids ALSO improved.

Ergo, we bitch and moan because we still have a "gap."

As to your piece -- NCLB isn't the only case where results drop off.

Studies on Head Start show that by the time those preschoolers get to 3rd and 4th grade, you can't statistically find them anymore. Any boost they garner from preschool participation dissipates in three years.

Maybe it's not that NCLB is an isolated failure -- maybe the failure is in the expectation that one era of the education life-cycle is any more important than another.

Jon Voisey said...

Good points. I think it is fair to call the NCLB a failure on the fact that it has not helped to close the racial gap due to the fact that it was, in large part, created to do so. The racial gap may not be the only issue we have facing us, but given that it's a large part of the intended goal of NCLB and it has not managed to do so it's a fair criticism.

The question I think you're getting at is, is the gap just not disappearing because non-minorities also increased, thus it looks like a failure because it's being too effective and bringing up the non-minorities as well? I would have to argue against that as well. As pointed out in the article, the NCLB era increases are not significantly different than previous years.

I'm also interested to hear about the Head Start falling off. I'm not nearly as familiar with that program (since it's not in the age range I focus on), but I would say that this is a failure as well. Not necessarily of that program in and of itself, but of the larger scope. Gains must be kept and built on. In education, there's no "quitting while you're ahead."

Stephen said...

I'm not convinced that the teachers are at fault. My 12 year old (6th grade) bursts into tears when math homework has to be done, nearly every time. I aced partial differential equations. I should be able to figure it out every time, but don't. It's word problems. I'm great at word problems. That is, unless they're ambiguous. Hardly a day's problem set goes by when there aren't at least two valid answers for something. They're feeding half algebra. That is, they're giving out algebra problems without having taught algebra. The kids are set up for failure. At least when i learned algebra, they taught me algebra first.

Fear of math starts with arithmetic. If you add 2 + 2 and get 5, it's not close, it's wrong. Vastly superior ways to teach arithmetic were invented in the 1930s. The country that used to use them (Japan) had the best math students on Earth. It wasn't just that their average was better. Their low was better and their best were better. Now they're just as bad as the rest of us. We do not need more of the status quo.