NEA in Damage Control Mode, Per Kaus

Thanks to Andrew for the heads-up about a posting in today’s kausfiles:

Test Scores Improving, NEA In Full Damage-Control Mode! Want to know what to make of those recent encouraging NAEP test score results, which the Bush Administration promptly hailed as “proof that No Child Left Behind is working.” As usual, Eduwonk is the place to start. … Anti-NCLB groups (e.g. the National Education Association) argue that since the NCLB had only been in effect for a year prior to the test, it can’t be credited with the results. But as Education Week noted:

…many states had already begun making such changes and focusing intensely on improving reading and math instruction after the 1999 national assessment and prior to the federal law’s implementation.

There’s a similar argument in the welfare debate: Why did all sorts of indicators (e.g., teen pregnancy, caseloads) start to improve in the years before the enactment of the 1996 federal reform? President Clinton attributed the results to state reform efforts that preceded the federal law. The case for a similar effect in education seems at least as strong, if not stronger. Weren’t pre-NCLB state efforts to require more testing and accountability far more pervasive than pre-1996 state efforts to require more welfare recipients to work? …
P.S.: The good news in education, of course, may in itself also be good news for welfare reform. One of the dreamier welfare reform theories, remember, was that kids whose parents worked (and who lived in neighborhoods in which more other kids’ parents worked) would do better in school. Liberal writers have made big splashes by noting individual cases in which this dynamic did not seem to be at work, in part because welfare reform pushed poor single mothers to hold down jobs that took them away from their kids. All welfare reformers could say, in effect, was “Let’s wait until we see how these big changes in neighborhoods play out across the whole population over many years.” Well …. Certainly results like the NAEP’s (which showed especially big gains for black 9-year-olds) make it harder to argue that the 1996 welfare law, by requiring mothers to take jobs and leave their kids, has had a negative overall effect on kids’ school performance.

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