Accountability shock is wearing off

Math scores rose dramatically in the “consequential accountability” era, but the accountability shock is wearing off, writes Mark Schneider, a former National Center for Education Statistics commissioner  now at American Institutes for Research. Texas, an early accountability adopter, saw an early rise in math scores and now a plateau, he writes. Progress is leveling off nationwide as well.

A graph of NAEP fourth-grade math scores show a “remarkable” growth in performance in Texas and the U.S.

Using the very rough rule of thumb that a 10-point change in NAEP scores equals about one year of learning, in 2011 our fourth graders are about two years ahead of where they were in 1992.

Texas improved first. The national average caught up when No Child Left Behind forced accountability on all states, Schneider writes.

Compared to the nation as a whole, Texas has more disadvantaged students. The state’s Hispanic, black and low-income students outperform the national average for similar students.

Reading scores did not improve in Texas or elsewhere in the accountability era, perhaps because reading “is far more dependent on what happens early in children’s lives,” Schneider writes.

What could provide the next shock? Schneider suggests the Common Core and the better measurement of teacher performance as possibilities.

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  1. Nice try, but your own graphic shows that almost all of the progress came before the implementation of NCLB.

    This little lie has been tried before in years past.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    Mike in Texas,

    Joanne presents Schneider as saying that Texas started improving before NCLB because it was an “early accountability adopter.” Then, “The national average caught up when No Child Left Behind forced accountability on all states.”

    I take it you are saying that most of the national progress took place from 2001-2003 and, though NCLB had been passed, it had not been “implemented” in that time. Do I understand you correctly?

  3. Lightly Seasoned says:

    A plateau is a normal stage of growth. It is a signal that the early efforts are working, but it is time to adjust to the changed state of affairs caused by the growth. The mistake many people make is to see a plateau as a signal to try something new — thus blocking real long-term gains. Churn is counter-productive. A new “shock” is the absolute last thing needed.

  4. I know no one likes to think about it, but that part of the graph from 1995 to 2000 was when George Bush was governor and very focused on education. In particular, he was a big proponent of holding schools responsible for student achievement. None of which is to say he deserves credit for that rise -the teachers did the work- just that leadership doesn’t hurt.