No Child Left Behind's success was overstated

In “No Child Left Behind deserves high marks,” (Jan. 17) Margaret Spellings gave a highly unwarranted positive evaluation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The law aims to enhance public schools’ accountability for the academic achievements all American children, regardless of ethnic or economic backgrounds.

In her argument, Spellings erroneously established a causality relationship between NCLB and the academic improvements of Hispanic and African-American students, failing to consider (A) whether the students have improved even without NCLB, such as from other programs assisting minority students, and (B) whether cross-sectional data (performance of a particular group at a particular time) is an accurate measurement. Perhaps longitudinal data (performance of the same students over time) could better indicate changes in quality of education.

Furthermore, she ignored NCLB’s negative effects. To meet the test’s requirements, schools focus extensively on reading and mathematics, neglecting other academic disciplines such as the sciences, the arts or history. Test-oriented curriculums tailored to meet NCLB standards create the illusion that students improved academically, when in fact, overall educational quality might have declined.
Nashville, Tenn.