Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), every school is subject to the controversial mandates for annual test score gains contained in the federal law. The law represents a profound change in the relationship between the federal government and state and local education agencies regarding who controls education and has direct implications for what happens educationally in schools and classrooms. Although NCLB affects these and other important areas of the educational system and imposes great pressure on school leaders, it is silent on the role of principals in fostering school improvement. Yet many of NCLB's provisions have important implications for principals. The law is based on the assumption that external accountability and the imposition of sanctions will force schools to improve and motivate teachers to change their instructional practices, resulting in better school performance. By relying on the threat of sanctions and market mechanisms--choice and supplemental educational services--to force school improvement, the law tends to place the principals of low-achieving schools in the role of trying to produce very large gains every year for every subgroup of students. In this article, the authors highlight the contradictions and oversimplifications in the existing law. They also discuss the findings of a teacher survey which they conducted to understand teachers' views of the assumptions underlying NCLB and the implications of these findings for principals.
Summer’s always been a great time to kick back with a book. But a strong body of research shows that, without practice, students lose reading skills over the summer months and children from low-income families lose the most. With the prevalence of television, computers and other electronic distractions, how can parents, educators and librarians encourage kids to immerse their minds and imaginations in books over the summer months?
The author describes how researchers have resolved scientific controversies in early reading instruction and explains why good research seems to have a delayed and limited effect on reading policy and practice. The article summarizes findings from major syntheses of early reading instruction over the past four decades and concludes with ideas for accelerating the communication of research to practitioners and empowering teachers to establish norms of excellent practice. (4 pp.)
The effects of a voluntary summer reading intervention with teacher and parent scaffolding were investigated in an experimental study. A total of 24 teachers and 400 children in Grades 3, 4, and 5 were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: control, books only, books with oral reading scaffolding, and books with oral reading and comprehension scaffolding. Books were matched to children's reading levels and interests. Children were pre- and posttested on measures of oral reading fluency (DIBELS) and silent reading ability (Iowa Test of Basic Skills [ITBS]). Results showed that children in the books with oral reading and comprehension scaffolding condition scored significantly higher on the ITBS posttest than children in the control condition. In addition, children in the two scaffolding conditions combined scored higher on the ITBS posttest than children in the control and books only conditions combined. Practical implications for summer voluntary reading interventions are discussed.
The authors designed and implemented a voluntary reading program that was intended to reduce loss in reading achievement over the summer months, particularly for low-income and ethnic minority children. The program had two major components:
providing eight books that were well matched to each child's reading level and interests
end-of-year lessons and activities for teachers and parents to provide support or scaffolding for children's summer reading
Teacher and parent scaffolding consisted of comprehension strategies instruction and oral reading practice. The results of two experiments demonstrated that the program had positive and educationally meaningful effects on reading achievement. These effects were largest for black and Hispanic children, ranging from 1.7 to 5.1 months of additional learning. Simply giving children books without any form of scaffolding did not have positive effects.
The causal effects of a voluntary summer reading intervention on children’s reading activities and reading achievement were assessed in a randomized experiment involving 331 children in Grades 1 to 5. Children were pretested in the spring on a standardized test of reading achievement (Stanford 10th edition), the Elementary Reading Attitudes Survey (ERAS), and a reading preference survey. At the end of the school year, children were stratified by their grade level and classroom and randomly assigned to receive 10 books matched to their reading levels and preferences during summer vacation or after the administration of posttests. Children in the treatment group received books through airmail in July and August. In September, children were re-administered the reading test and completed a survey of their summer reading activities. Although the treatment group reported reading more books and participating in more literacy activities than the control group, there was no significant difference in reading achievement. Recommendations for enhancing the effects of voluntary reading through teacher-directed instruction and for conducting a replication study are discussed.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) expanded the federal role in American education, and by doing so altered the distribution of power among the federal government, states, and local districts. When the law was enacted, it was unclear how this change in the dis- tribution of power would play itself out. This study examines the developing set of relationships between federal, state, and local officials under the new law and the factors that have contributed to a growing conflict over implementation. To fully understand the implications of NCLB requires examining these interactions as well as understanding the substantive educational issues it raises. We identify three factors that contributed to the growing dissatisfaction with the law, namely, the Bush administration’s approach to federalism, the states’ limited capacity to meet the new requirements, and the fiscal constraints facing state governments. We argue that these factors have contributed to the conflict with federal officials, eroded state commitment to the law, and complicated implementation efforts.
The effects of a voluntary summer reading intervention were assessed in a randomized field trial involving 552 students in 10 schools. In this study, fourth-grade children received 8 books to read during summer vacation, and were encouraged by their teachers to practice oral reading at home with a family member and to use comprehension strategies during independent, silent reading. Reading lessons occurred during the last month of school in June, and 8 books were mailed to students on a biweekly basis during July and August. The estimated treatment effects on a standardized test of reading achievement (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) were largest for Black students (ES = .22), Latino students (ES = .14), less fluent readers (ES = .17), and students who reported owning fewer than 50 children’s books (ES = .13). The main findings suggest that a voluntary summer reading intervention may represent a scaleable policy for improving reading achievement among lower-performing students.
The accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 place high-poverty schools and racially diverse schools at a dis- advantage because they rely on mean proficiency scores and require all subgroups to meet the same goals for accountability. In this arti- cle, student achievement data from six states are used to highlight differences in the demographic characteristics of schools identified as needing improvement and schools meeting the federal adequate yearly progress requirements. School-level data from Virginia and California are used to illustrate that these differences arise both from the selection bias inherent in using mean proficiency scores and from rules that require students in racially diverse schools to meet multiple performance targets. The authors suggest alternatives for the design of accountability systems that include using multiple mea- sures of student achievement, factoring in student improvement on achievement tests in reading and mathematics, and incorporating state accountability ratings of school performance.
A number of studies have shown that low-income and minority students undergo larger summer reading losses than their middle-class and White classmates and that reading books is the only activity that is consistently related to summer learning. The purpose of this study was to explore whether reading summer books improved fall reading proficiency and whether access to books increased the volume of summer reading. The results from the multivariate regression analyses suggest that the effect of reading four to five books on fall reading scores is potentially large enough to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores from the spring to the fall. Furthermore, children who reported easy access to books also read more books. The findings have implications for designing school-based summer reading programs and for conducting future experiments that confirm the correlational findings from this study.
To what extent do summer learning losses depend on ethnicity and socioeconomic status? Prior research indicates that poor students undergo larger summer reading losses than their middle-class counterparts, and all students undergo similar losses in math. To explain this finding, scholars have relied on surveys of summer activities, which show that poor children have fewer opportunities to practice reading than middle-class children. As a result, socioeconomic gaps in reading are heightened during summer vacation, suggesting that differences in family background—not differences in school quality—create achievement inequalities. Using data from a heterogeneous sample that includes all four major ethnic groups, this study reveals one predictable finding and one surprising finding. First, as suggested by prior research, summer reading losses are sensitive to income status. Low- income Asians and Latinos, and to a lesser extent low-income Blacks, lose ground in reading. Middle-income minorities also undergo reading losses, but these losses are smaller than those for low-income students. Second, low-income Blacks and both low- and middle-income Asians enjoy summer math gains, and the gains for middle-income Asians are especially large. This finding challenges the widely accepted research finding that all children’s math skills remain flat or decline during summer vacation. Suggested explanations for both sets of findings focus on home and community circumstances, which influence achievement during summer vacation. Researchers, policymakers, and educators should look outside of schools to understand why achievement gaps form and how to remedy them. This paper concludes with some recommendations for policy and future research.
Which is more equitable, teacher-assigned grades or high-stakes tests? Nationwide, there is a growing trend toward the adoption of standardized tests as a means to de- termine promotion and graduation. “High-stakes testing” raises several concerns re- garding the equity of such policies. In this article, the authors examine the question of whether high-stakes tests will mitigate or exacerbate inequities between racial and ethnic minority students and White students, and between female and male stu- dents. Specifically, by comparing student results on the Massachusetts Comprehen- sive Assessment System (MCAS) with teacher-assigned grades, the authors analyze the relative equitability of the two measures across three subject areas — math, Eng- lish, and science. The authors demonstrate that the effects of high-stakes testing pro- grams on outcomes, such as retention and graduation, are different from the results of using grades alone, and that some groups of students who are already faring poorly, such as African Americans and Latinos/Latinas, will do even worse if high- stakes testing programs are used as criteria for promotion and graduation.