No Child Left Behind improved math achievement significantly when backed by state sanctions or high proficiency standards, concludes a study by Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. The study used NAEP data from 1990 to 2009 before and after NCLB went into effect. Catholic and secular private schools were used as a control group.
The authors found a statistically significant increase in math achievement for students in public schools during the NCLB era under one of two conditions: either the state had additional sanctions on top of NCLB’s and/or it had high proficiency standards (as measured by its cut scores). In states where one or both of these conditions was met, students gained six to seven months of math in grade 4 and a full twelve months of math in grade 8. Reading results were weaker and less certain, seen only in states with both conditions and only in grade 4.
“Sanctions can work when tied to meaningful metrics,” concludes Education Gadfly.