Johnny Can Read… in Some States. Frederick Hess, Paul E. Peterson. Education Next, 5(3), 52-53. 2005.

Johnny can’t read … in South Carolina. But if his folks move to Texas, he’ll be reading up a storm. What’s going on?

It turns out that in complying with the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), some states have decided to be a whole lot more generous than others in determining whether students are proficient at math and reading. While NCLB required all states to have accountability systems in place, it did not say specifically how much students should know at the end of 4th or any other grade.

The Children Left Behind. Paul Peterson. Education Next, 5(2), 3. 2005.
No Child Left Behind? The Politics and Practice of School Accountability. Paul Peterson, Martin West. Brookings Institution Press, 340 pages. 2003.

The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act is the most important legislation in American education since the 1960s. The law requires states to put into place a set of standards together with a comprehensive testing plan designed to ensure these standards are met. Students at schools that fail to meet those standards may leave for other schools, and schools not progressing adequately become subject to reorganization. The significance of the law lies less with federal dollar contributions than with the direction it gives to federal, state, and local school spending.

Do Hard Courses and Good Grades Enhance Cognitive Skills?. Paul Peterson, Jay R. GirottoIn Paul E. Peterson and Susan Mayer, Eds.. Earning and Learning: How Schools Matter. Brookings Institution Press. 1999.
Keeping an Eye on State Standards: A Race to the Bottom?. Frederick Hess, Paul E. Peterson. Education Next, 6(3), 28. 2006.

While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires all students to be “ proficient” in math and reading by 2014, the precedent-setting 2002 federal law also allows each state to determine its own level of proficiency. It’ s an odd discordance at best. It has led to the bizarre situation in which some states achieve handsome proficiency results by grading their students against low standards, while other states suffer poor proficiency ratings only because they have high standards.