NEPC Review: Fewer Children Left Behind: Lessons From the Dramatic Achievement Gains of the 1990s and 2000s (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, October 2019)
A Fordham report highlights the historic academic progress of Black and Hispanic groups over the past two decades, at the elementary school level, on the NAEP exam. From this, the report offers the major claim, based on its author’s eyeball test, that the academic progress of students of color is attributable “mostly” to poverty reduction. The report, however, also acknowledges that correlation is not causation and calls for systematic statistical analysis to test the author’s proposition. This review responds to that call by examining the validity of the report’s arguments around progress and causes, looking to expanded data sources, including both family income and school expenditures. The review notes uneven patterns of achievement among grade levels and refutes the report’s claim that flat achievement trends among twelfth graders are a result of dropout reductions.