Tag Archives: Education

“No Child Left Behind” worked? At least for math

Here is the abstract by Thomas Dee and Brian Jacob via the NBER: (emphasis added)

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act compelled states to design school-accountability systems based on annual student assessments. The effect of this Federal legislation on the distribution of student achievement is a highly controversial but centrally important question. This study presents evidence on whether NCLB has influenced student achievement based on an analysis of state-level panel data on student test scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The impact of NCLB is identified using a comparative interrupted time series analysis that relies on comparisons of the test-score changes across states that already had school-accountability policies in place prior to NCLB and those that did not. Our results indicate that NCLB generated statistically significant increases in the average math performance of 4th graders (effect size = 0.22 by 2007) as well as improvements at the lower and top percentiles. There is also evidence of improvements in 8th grade math achievement, particularly among traditionally low-achieving groups and at the lower percentiles. However, we find no evidence that NCLB increased reading achievement in either 4th or 8th grade.

HT to Tyler Cowen at MR who has made an interesting observation from this:

… To my skewed perspective, this is an intuitive result.  Math skills are more the result of drill, whereas you have to learn how to love to read and much of that happens within the family, not at school.  Math is therefore easier to “teach by central planning,” so to speak.

I do have to say though that reading comprehension skills is far different than just loving to read. Sitting down to read Harry Potter is certainly a lot different than having to read The Wealth of Nations.  How does one know that when a child is sitting at home they are practicing the same reading comprehension skills needed in order to disseminate critical reading for productive purposes? I assume that is the aim of NCLB; to create a more productive workforce for the future.

I want to point out that NCLB also has provided some misaligned incentives for students as well as teachers.  It is has forced students to focus on improving standardized test scores rather than actually improve a students productive capability.  Freakonomics certainly had weighed in on this.


Cash for grades?

Talk about perverse incentives:

A middle school in North Carolina is selling test scores to students in a bid to raise money.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Wednesday that a parent advisory council at Rosewood Middle School in Goldsboro come up with the fundraising plan after last year’s chocolate sale flopped.

The school will sell 20 test points to students for $20.

Students can add 10 extra points to each of two tests of their choice. The extra points could take a student from a “B” to an “A” on those tests or from a failing grade to a passing grade.

Fortunately, it immediately got crushed the same day.

The New Unemployed

With the recession taking its toll on demand, employers forced to reduce their supply in the short-term has inevitably lead to job cuts.  The new unemployed work force in need of employment can’t find it.  Yet, so many jobs are available, specifically in specialized positions such as “accounts, actuaries, data analysts, physical therapists, and electrical engineers, as well as those in specialized fields like biotechnology.”  Recruiters are just having a hard time filling these positions (according to here)  because even with unemployment nearly reaching 10%, no one is qualified.

With state governments cutting funding to state universities, (here) low enrollment for specialized fields in science and technology and an aging workforce specialized in manufacturing and construction, the new unemployed are faced with dilemmas.  With no job, one has to face receiving unemployment benefits and dip into savings in order to get by, which leaves little room for investing in education for a future career, especially when one has worked at the same company the rest of their life.

The new unemployed are going to face a tough time.  Unemployment rates  were not expected to reach so high, given the hopes after the stimulus. (here)  With rosy expectations that we are expected to recover sooner or later, the economy may grow, as the U.S. workforce remains to become more productive, but a large percentage of the workforce will remain part of the structurally unemployed in the long-term, not just the short-term like most economists expect.

I am beginning to suspect that double-digit unemployment will be common place if nothing new from Washington is decided.  The continued policy of providing only a limited amount of funding for education is the punishment for the new unemployed — even though it is proven that public funding in higher education pays off (here). The new administration will need to realize its role for the creation of this new demographic due to our government’s lack of commitment to educating our workforce.