The math and reading test, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Long Term Trends, has been given to a representative national sample of 9-, 13- and 17-year-old students every few years since the early 1970's, virtually without modification, and social scientists study it carefully. The results announced today were from a test given to 28,000 public and private school students in all 50 states during fall 2003 and spring 2004. The test had not been administered since 1999.
Nine year old students born in the mid-1990's, on average, earned the highest scores in three decades, in both subjects.
In the reading test, the average score of 9-year-old black students increased by 14 points on a 500-point scale, to 200 in 2004 from 186 in 1999. Reading scores of 9-year-old white students increased by 5 points, to 226 in 2004 from 221 in 1999. As a result, the black-white achievement gap for 9-year-old students narrowed to 26 points from 35 points over those five years. In 1971, the gap was 44 points.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings attributed the gains among elementary students to President Bush's school reform law, No Child Left Behind. Sounding jubilant, she also credited the nation's teachers, principals and state and national policymakers, including Democrats who have supported the federal law.
Despite Spellings' efforts at sharing the credit, I expect to hear lots of people going out of their way to discredit No Child Left Behind.