Education Law Up for Renewal; Teachers Are Leery

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The No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal in Congress, and whether it is working remains in question. A new study shows test scores are rising. But it's unclear whether the education law should get the credit. For many educators, the verdict on the law is undetermined.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal in Congress, facing a big question: Is it working? A new study says test scores are going up, but can't say whether the education law should get the credit.

NPR's Larry Abramson explains.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy wanted to know the truth about No Child Left Behind, so he convened a panel of friends and foes of the law. They gathered data from all 50 states. Jennings says it all points in one direction.

Mr. JACK JENNINGS (President, Center on Education Policy): Test scores are going up in general in the public schools. Kids are doing better in terms of reading and math skills.

ABRAMSON: But there are many caveats. Jennings and his panel had to rely on state testing data - standards vary widely across the country. And many states don't have enough data to show a trend. Others have changed their standards since passage of No Child Left Behind, so their scores can't be counted. But the panel said state tests are really the only way to measure educational progress right now, so the results are important.

Jack Jennings says his report also found that the achievement gap between white and minority students is narrowing. But…

Mr. JENNINGS: The gap is still very substantial, which means that if we're serious about narrowing the achievement gap, we're going to have to redouble our efforts.

ABRAMSON: The Education Department hailed the findings and will certainly do so again as the administration campaigns to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Law. Skeptics say education improvements that preceded No Child Left Behind are really responsible for those gains.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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