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Volume V, Number 3, March, 2007

False Claims and WMDs?

The President and his Ed Secretary are on the road trying to sell reauthorization of NCLB/Helter-Skelter based on claims of gains they attribute to the law, even though most of the years during which the gains occurred pre-dated NCLB's passage and implementation by schools. Fortunately, the press is alert to WMDs - words of mass deception.

While most reliable sources and commentators have seen little progress on the NAEP tests attributable to NCLB thus far, the President and his Ed Secretary are using what the President once called "fuzzy math" to show progress that others cannot see. Note article "Flatline NAEP Scores" at This continues an approach to data and reality that pays little heed to truth and accuracy, causing one comedian to coin the term "truthiness."

At one point the media hesitated to challenge this president when he presented claims, but in recent months we are seeing a surge (to use his term) of press attention to evidence and data, taking little at face value and subjecting assertions to critical analysis.

For an excellent analysis of the President's dubious NCLB pronouncements, read the article in Education Week, "Bush Claims About NCLB Questioned - Data on gains in achievement remain limited, preliminary." By David J. Hoff and Kathleen Kennedy Manzo.

Is the No Child Left Behind Act working?
President Bush says it is, pointing to student-achievement results from a single subsection of the National Assessment of Educational Progress and tentative Reading First data. But the evidence available to support his claim is questionable.

Probably the most glaring and obvious problem with the claims is the time period covered by the data.

Citing One Set of Numbers ...
President Bush likes to cite the “long-term-trend” NAEP as proof that the No Child Left Behind Act is working. The gains are significant only for 9- and 13-year-olds in math and 9-year-olds in reading. What’s more, the gains fall into a five-year testing window, and only two of those years occurred after the law took effect.

You can see the Education Week chart showing the scores by clicking here.

Gerald Bracey, who has written for this publication and is especially well trained in debunking false statistical claims, is quoted at some length by Education Week.

Mr. Bracey, a frequent critic of testing programs, points out that implementation of the law began in 2002, but didn’t start to fuel significant change in schools until the 2003-04 school year. “So I guess [the Bush administration] should be sharing some of the credit with the Clinton administration,” he said.

© 2007, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.