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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Lots of kids left behind: Why achievement gaps grew

Achievement gaps are large and growing across the country, writes Chad Aldeman on The 74. It's not the pandemic: Scores have been falling for a decade. It's not Common Core or the recession or even smart phones, he argues.


It's accountability, he concludes. Under No Child Left Behind, schools were held accountable for enabling students to make "adequate yearly progress." Scores rose for low and high achievers. In 2012, President Obama announced accountability waivers in exchange for other reforms. Scores began to fall, especially for low achievers.



"Instead of interventions for all children in low-performing schools, states could choose how many schools to identify for improvement and what happened there," writes Aldeman, who was working for the U.S. Education Department at the time. Then, in 2015, the unpopular No Child Left Behind was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act.


Aldeman focuses on eighth-grade math skills, which are linked to future success, but notes that "similar achievement trends are evident in other grades and subjects, including reading, history and civics.


From 2003 to 2013, "the lowest and highest performers both improved about 8 points  — close to a year’s worth of progress — on NAEP, the Nation’s Report Card," he writes. "From 2013 to 2019, scores for the lowest-performing 10% of students fell 7 points, versus a gain of 3 points for students at the higher end."


The response to Covid widened the gap even further.


Read the whole article (and check out the lovely, interactive graphs) for Aldeman's case against other theories for the decline. He concludes that "holding school systems accountable for their lowest-performing students was working — until policymakers decided the pressure wasn’t worth it." 


Low-performing schools are under no federal pressure to improve, writes Alyson Klein in Education Week. And they're not.


Every Student Succeeds left up to states and districts to decide how to fix their worst-performing schools, Klein writes. Many "have been left to languish in the academic doldrums, without clear improvement strategies to use or dedicated resources to execute turnarounds, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

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15 Comments


Heresolong
Heresolong
Feb 29

At least in math CC is just a list if things that should be taught. Not sure why the blame on CC for kids not learning

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Mar 01
Replying to

Common Core has proved disappointing (I was an early supporter of the Common Core initiative, but withdrew my support from the mathematical standards after what the committees came up with was published), but Aldeman's argument blaming the Obama administration elides the fact that, by 2012, states were facing the possibility that all of their schools were going to be labelled "in need of improvement", since we were nowhere near the 100 per cent proficiency that No Child Left Behind absurdly legally mandated be achieved by 2014, and his blaming the Obamas does not explain why scores stopped improving, and have since fallen, all over the world since roughly the same time period.

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Feb 29

Instead of accountability for schools, how about accountability for students? We have to bend over backwards to make sure students pass, with all sorts of extra interventions and requirements. Nothing wrong with any of that but kids who don't make any effort at all still pass because we worry about our school rating ( By we I mean the administration, not the teachers necessarily). There is zero accountability for students, however. Show up late or don't show up at all, don't take notes, don't pay attention, sleep in class, the next question is "What are you doing to engage them?"

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superdestroyer
Feb 29
Replying to

If one wants to hold students to high standards, then one has to be willing to accept a high rate of failure, a high rate of dropouts, and the need to lay off unneeded teachers. The problem is politics is accept that high rate.

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Bill Parker
Bill Parker
Feb 28

Educational standards have been in question since "A Nation at Risk" was published in 1983 (I graduated from high school in 1981) and standards have never been lower for students with things like minimum "F" standards (where no grade can be lower than 50, even if the student turns in no work at all), in my day, turning in no work at all got you a big FAT zero... Along with not counting attendance, participation, etc as being part of the grading system.


It is sad to see how far public education has fallen in 40+ years (I received a good education from public schools, but I attended at a time where the mantra was your job as a kid…

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Bill Parker
Bill Parker
Feb 29
Replying to

Actually, in Nevada (and many other states) the exit exam for high school students

was eliminated as a requirement for graduation long before COVID-19 occurred...in NV

high school students were given seven (7) attempts to pass tests in Reading, Writing, Math, and Science (Science was added as a requirement a few years before the test

was eliminated).


The seven attempts were for EACH subject covered by an exam, and once you passed

the exams, you never had to take them again (so if you passed in 9th grade, you were

good to graduate, assuming you had passed the required courses)...


I remember the legislature would constantly lower the cut score for passing in

math until it no longer mattered, and…


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Jim Daniels
Jim Daniels
Feb 28

Bribing states into adopting the "Common Core" standards didn't help, either.

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Joanne Jacobs
Joanne Jacobs
Feb 28
Replying to

Aldeman says the timing of the decline in NAEP scores doesn't track with the Common Core rollout, and occurs in non-CC states as well.

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