Press Release

National Alliance of Black School Educators and The Education Trust recognize recent progress in public education

Publication date: Sep 28, 2004

As states release their 2003-04 student achievement results, the early signs offer encouraging news, according to an analysis of data compiled by the Education Trust. Around the country, many schools are boosting the academic performance of all students while accelerating the gains for poor and minority children, particularly in the elementary grades.

And educators report that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has helped their systems focus — some for the first time — on the academic performance of all children. Before this law, school success was often evaluated on overall school achievement, which obscured the lagging performance of underachieving children, especially children of color and children from low-income families.

“These early results demonstrate what close observers have known for a long time — that dedicated educators can narrow, and ultimately, close these unacceptable gaps in achievement,” said Quentin Lawson, Executive Director of The National Alliance of Black School Educators.

Yet despite genuine progress in these early returns, critics have been undeterred in calling for immediate changes to the landmark federal legislation. “It’’s critical that federal and state policymakers stay the course and not be swayed by what are often politically motivated attacks on a law that’s starting to spark real changes in the lives of kids,”” said Kati Haycock, Director of the Education Trust.

The Education Trust has examined data on schools that met “adequate yearly progress” goals for the 2003-04 school year. (Adequate yearly progress, or AYP, signals whether schools are on target to help all students become proficient in reading and math by 2014, as NCLB requires.) To date, more than half of the states have released AYP results.

Many states are reporting significant gains.

In nine states alone -– North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, Alaska, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia and California -– the proportion of schools making AYP has increased by at least 10 percentage points. These states educate nearly one in three of the nation’s African-American and low-income children and nearly four in 10 Latino students.

While some of the AYP results can be attributed to changes in federal and state regulations since last year’’s results, there is also strong and irrefutable evidence that students are making real and substantial academic gains.

Some examples:

  • In Illinois, Latino students made dramatic progress. In 2001, only 41 percent of Latino fifth graders performed at the proficient level on state math assessments, compared with 76 percent of Whites – a gap of 35 percentage points. But by 2004, the proportion of Latino fifth graders meeting Illinois’ math standards surged to 67 percent, and the White-Latino gap narrowed to 16 percentage points.
  • In Delaware, the gap in fifth-grade reading performance between poor and non-poor students stood at 27 percentage points in 2001. By 2004, it narrowed to 15 points.
  • And despite a long-term commitment to education reform in North Carolina, African-American third graders in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District still lagged 35 points behind their White peers in math in 2002. Latino students were not performing much better.  Two years later, the White-Black gap in third-grade math has narrowed to 16 points in Charlotte-Mecklenberg. And the White-Latino gap has narrowed to 11 points. It is important to note that these gains did not come at the expense of the academic achievement of White students.

These states and districts are proving that public education can teach all children to higher levels.  It is clear that the No Child Left Behind Act is spurring real change.

The law also is serving another important function:  identifying those schools that are not making progress with all students. NCLB shines a welcome light on these schools, so they can receive extra attention, support and resources to ensure that all children meet high standards. Unfortunately, millions of parents and students who still are waiting for improvement efforts to help their schools can attest that success is still a long way off.

“”Black educators welcome the focus on how well black students are being educated,”” Lawson said. “We see the focus on achievement gaps as an opportunity to help public education improve, and we’re ready to lead these efforts.”  Superintendents who are members of NABSE lead public school districts that educate more than one in four African-American public school students.”

While NABSE and the Education Trust know the law isn’’t perfect, the overall concept is both positive and powerful.  And both organizations agree wholeheartedly that more money – from federal, state and local sources -– should be forthcoming to help the neediest children achieve at high levels. But both organizations know that more money alone won’’t get the job done.

“Extra supports for students and teachers must be paired with rigorous accountability systems to ensure schools better serve students of color, students from poor families, students with disabilities and students still learning English,” said Kati Haycock, Director of The Education Trust.

The heartening news is that educators all over the country are embracing the accountability goals and redoubling their efforts on behalf of children. ““Let’s not forget that, in spite of all the overblown rhetoric and misinformation, classroom teachers report being more satisfied with their work this year than in any of the previous 20 years,”” Haycock said, referring to the results of a recent Harris Interactive poll.

“The important national work of educating all children to high standards has just begun in earnest,” said Stephanie Robinson, Principal Partner of The Education Trust and former deputy superintendent of public schools in Kansas City, Mo.

“This law represents the most significant change in federal education policy in decades,” Robinson added, “and it is imperative that we give it the chance to fulfill its early promise and transform education for all.”

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The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this — All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.

The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) is the nation’s premiere non-profit organization devoted to furthering the academic success for the nation’s children – particularly children of African descent. NABSE is dedicated to improving both the educational experiences and accomplishments of African American youth through the development and use of instructional and motivational methods that increase levels of inspiration, attendance and overall achievement.

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