No Child Left Behind is a smashing success – at least according to it’s chief cheerleader, W.

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.

“Fourth graders are reading better,” the president said during a March 2 visit to a school in New Albany, Ind. “They’ve made more progress in five years than the previous 28 years combined.”

In mathematics, he said, elementary and middle school students “earned the highest scores in the history of the test.”

However, he using selective pieces of data to support those claims (and where have we heard that before?).

The trend line pointed to in W’s speech dates back to 1990 while NCLB became law in 2002 and really didn’t begin affecting schools until the 2003-04 school year.

If he was being intellectually honest (and where have we heard that before?), the president would only use statistics from the past two years, numbers which are inconclusive at best.

One of the founding principles of NCLB is that any programs used in schools must be backed by research. The one exception seems to be NCLB itself.

Regardless of whether NAEP scores go up or down, it’s almost impossible to link those changes to the NCLB law without a well-designed research study, said Mr. Koretz of Harvard. That would compare a group of students who were exposed to NCLB policies against one that hadn’t participated in the testing and accountability measures in the law.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, the basis for all the claims of success, is not a “well-designed research study”. As Gerald Bracey has pointed out many times, NAEP is not even a valid test for assessing student progress on a national scale.

While the article doesn’t really address the issue of whether the over emphasis on standardized testing at the heart of NCLB is valid, the writer does a good job of highlighting the misleading claims of the law’s supporters.

Read it all. [The link in the first sentence should get you past the Education Week registration wall.]