In looking at the results of No Child Left Behind, researchers have found all kinds of unexpected consequences, most of them not good.

But a new study of students in Chicago is a veritable smorgasbord of not-what-they-expected results.

The post-reform pattern, in all cases, was consistent: Students in the middle of the pack made the largest test-score gains, compared with students in previous years. The bottom 20 percent of students made the least progress and, in some cases, even lost ground. The top 10 percent of students made either no academic gains or improvements that were smaller than those of students in the middle, depending on the subject matter.

For the least-able students, the situation was only slightly better in the post-1998 reform period. Those students’ scores improved more then, the researchers believe, because the standards had been set at lower levels. They speculated that teachers may be more likely to write off low-achieving students when the likelihood that they will ever meet the achievement target is more distant.

So, NCLB is helping the kids in the middle raise their test scores. Of course, these are the “bubble” kids who are usually the primary targets of the test prep curriculum in most schools.

At the same time, the bottom kids are doing about as well as they were before all this “reform” started. And the upper kids are being ignored (they’ll pass the test no matter what) and going nowhere.

Is it any wonder that, when it comes to the NCLB mandate that all students will reach “proficiency” by the 2013-14 school year, “there’s no evidence to show that schools are taking that seriously”?

nclb, chicago, school reform