NCLB Systems in Place, But Results Uncertain, Study Shows

Published January 1, 2008

Experts from the RAND Corporation and American Institutes for Research (AIR), analyzing data from five years’ worth of experience with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), say states have already put into place most of the law’s test-based accountability requirements and now must focus on improving schools identified as poor performers.

“Accountability Under NCLB: Interim Report” concludes 75 percent of the nation’s schools made adequate yearly progress (AYP) as defined by their respective states in 2003-04, a 2 percent increase from the previous year. Also, all states have adopted most of the accountability requirements dictated by the law.

However, 20 states are not up to date in adopting English-language proficiency tests, and performance measures are not uniform nationwide.

Making Progress

The schools most likely to be identified as needing improvement were high-poverty, high-minority, and urban schools, as well as large schools and middle schools, according to the report released in mid-November. Across the nation, 13 percent of schools were identified as needing improvement in 2004-05. The student groups most likely not to make AYP were African-Americans and those with disabilities or limited English proficiency.

“States are making progress implementing policies required by No Child Left Behind, and they’ve largely met the accountability requirements through 2004-05,” said coauthor Kerstin Carlson Le Floch, a principal research analyst at AIR, in a press statement. “But much remains to be done to fulfill the full promise of the law.”

Doing More

“These are good first steps, but more needs to be done,” agreed co-author Brian Stecher of RAND in the same press statement. “Some states still struggle to deliver timely information, for example, while others struggle to provide basic resources for schools, such as textbooks and instructional materials.”

According to the study:

  • Of the 25 percent of schools not making AYP in 2003-04, 51 percent failed because the entire school population or most of its subgroups did not meet achievement benchmarks.
  • One-third of the schools not making AYP failed primarily because of the performance of disabled students or those with limited English language proficiency.
  • Approximately 20 states weren’t able to tell schools how they did on statewide assessment tests before the 2004-05 school year began.
  • The most common efforts to improve schools include using achievement data to improve teaching, having teachers or tutors spend more time with low-achieving students, and aligning curricula with tests.

Larry McQuillan ([email protected]) is director of communications at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, DC.

For more information …

“Accountability Under NCLB: Interim Report,” by Brian Stecher et al., RAND Corporation and American Institute of Research, November 19, 2007: