President Bush said the following about education in the State of the Union address:
Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools that give children the knowledge and character they need in life. Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.
Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools, and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose someplace better. We must increase funds for students who struggle — and make sure these children get the special help they need. And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future and our country is more competitive by strengthening math and science skills. The No Child Left Behind Act has worked for America’s children — and I ask Congress to reauthorize this good law.
Having recently hopped into the skeptic column on NCLB, I decided to do a quick check on the President’s empirical assertion that students are performing better in reading and math, and that minority students are closing the achievement gap.
Since the year 2000, Math NAEP scores are up a bit. Reading scores are flat and mixed, up a bit in 4th grade, down a bit in 8th grade. Nothing much to get excited about.
On the achievement gap front, things look