Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Will NCLB undermine education success stories?

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Coinciding with the seventh anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, the Heritage Foundation released a study I co-authored with senior policy analyst Dan Lips making the case that real education reform needs to come up from the states, rather than down from the federal government. The study focuses on the success of Florida's reforms and notes that NCLB actually threatens Florida's continued success.

Lips and I found that nationally progress on NAEP has been about the same before and after NCLB despite a huge increase in federal funding. Ironically, the utopian meddling of NCLB requiring states to achieve 100 percent "proficiency" by 2014 will undermine successful reform efforts like Florida's by incentivizing the dummying down of their state exam, the FCAT. It would be a shame if President Bush's over-reaching undermined his brother's spectacular success, which is likely to happen unless Congress alters NCLB.

Notice on the map below that not only is Arizona's average decisively outscored by Florida's Hispanics, but also by West Virginia, the state most closely associated with Appalachian poverty. We've got our work cut out for us, but improvement in student learning is not only necessary it's achievable.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.

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