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National Assessment of Title I - Final Report

NCEE 2008-4012
June 2008

B. Key Findings - Student Achievement

For both state assessment and NAEP results, recent achievement trends through 2004 or 2005 are positive overall and for key subgroups, particularly in mathematics and at the elementary level. At this early stage of NCLB implementation— states, districts, and schools began to implement the NCLB provisions in 2002-03—it is not possible to say whether the trends described below are attributable to NCLB, to other improvement initiatives that preceded it, or a combination of both.

  • In states that had three-year trend data available from 2002-03 to 2004-05, the percentage of students achieving at or above the state's proficient level rose for most student subgroups in a majority of the states. For example, state reading assessments administered in the 4th grade or an adjacent elementary grade show achievement gains in elementary reading for low-income students in 27 out of 35 states (77 percent) that had trend data available for this subgroup (see Exhibit 4). Across all student subgroups examined, states showed achievement gains in 78 percent of the cases. Results for mathematics and for 8th grade show similar patterns.
  • Based on trend data for 36 states, most states would not meet the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2013-14 unless the percentage of students achieving at the proficient level increased at a faster rate. For example, 29 percent of the states with consistent elementary reading assessment data for low-income students would meet the 100 percent goal by 2013-14 for this subgroup if they sustained the same rate of growth that they achieved from 2002-03 to 2004-05 (see Exhibit 4). Looking across eight different student subgroups (low-income, black, Hispanic, white, LEP, migrant, students with disabilities, and all students), an average of 31 percent of the subgroups within the 36 states would be predicted to reach 100 percent proficiency in 4th grade reading based on current growth rates. Only one state (Nebraska) would be predicted to reach 100 percent proficiency for all subgroups and assessments that were included in this analysis.
  • Recent NAEP trends showed gains for 4th-grade students in reading, mathematics, and science, overall and for minority students and students in high-poverty schools, but trends for middle and high school students were mixed. For example, from 2000 to 2005, 4th-grade black students gained 10 points in reading and Hispanic students gained 13 points, while in mathematics, black students gained 17 points and Hispanic students gained 18 points. Over the longer term, black and Hispanic students showed even larger gains in mathematics (33 points and 26 points, respectively, from 1990 to 2005), but somewhat smaller gains in reading (eight points and seven points, respectively, from 1992 to 2005) (see Exhibit 5).
  • Neither 8th- nor 12th-grade students made gains in reading or science achievement. Eighth-grade students made significant gains in mathematics, but not in reading or science. At the 12th-grade level, reading and science achievement in 2005 was unchanged from the preceding assessments (2002 for reading and 2000 for science) and showed significant declines from the first years those assessments were administered (1992 for reading and 1996 for science). Recent trend data for 12th-grade mathematics are not available.
  • State assessments and NAEP both provided some indications that achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and other students may be narrowing. For example, state assessments showed a reduction in the achievement gap between low-income students and all students in most states, typically a reduction of one to three percentage points. On the Trend NAEP, which has used a consistent set of assessment items since the 1970's, achievement gains for black and Hispanic substantially outpaced gains made by white students, resulting in significant declines in black-white and Hispanic-white achievement gaps, but recent changes in achievement gaps often were not statistically significant.

Under NCLB, high schools are held accountable for graduation rates, but methods for calculating graduation rates vary considerably across states. The averaged freshman graduation rate (calculated by the National Center for Education Statistics based on data from the Common Core of Data) is useful for providing a common standard against which state-reported graduation rates may be compared. The median state graduation rate in 2004 was 84 percent based on state reports and 77 percent based on the averaged freshman graduation rate.

  • The recent trend in the averaged freshman graduation rate has been fairly steady, and the mean graduation rate in 2004 (75 percent) was slightly higher than in 1996 (73 percent). However, these longitudinal data may not be strictly comparable because of changes in reporting over time.