Press "Enter" to skip to content

No Child Left Behind Leaves No Noticeable Mark on South Dakota Scores

Folks are all a-bubble about Common Core. But how'd the last big education reform wave, No Child Left Behind, work out?

President George W. Bush signed that bipartisan education reform into law in 2002. We spent a good decade rewriting curriculum and teaching to tests. What did we get for it? Nothing noticeable, at least here in South Dakota:

South Dakota’s fourth grade and eighth grade scores for math and reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have remained steady since the test was first administered in the state in 2002.

...The state’s average math score at eighth grade was 287, compared to a national average of 284. Over the past ten years, the score has varied from 285 to 291. The state’s average reading score at eighth grade was 268, compared to a national average of 266. That score has varied from 268 to 270 in the past ten years.

...In the fourth grade, South Dakota’s average NAEP score for math is 241, which is also the national average. That score has varied between 237 and 242 in the past decade. The fourth grade reading score is 218, which is three points lower than the national average of 221. In the past ten years, that score has varied between 218 and 223 [South Dakota Department of Education, press release, 2013.11.07].

South Dakota schools spent a lot of time sending kids home so teachers and administrators could have meetings to talk about implement No Child Left Behind. We took time out of regular classroom activities so teachers could conduct test-prep sessions with students. We spent a lot of money on new tests and on breakfasts and snacks to fuel kids up during the tests.

And we got no noticeable improvement in student performance.

Just a thought: maybe instead of distracting kids and teachers from the classroom, we might have gotten more for our efforts if we had called off those in-services and test-prep sessions and just let teachers do their jobs.

Delete "No Child Left Behind," insert "Common Core," and I have a feeling you'll have exactly the blog post I'll be able to write eleven years from now, in response to an identical press release from the state showing no impact on test scores from Common Core.

Related: Whose fourth graders have the best math scores? Minnesota.


  1. Tasi Livermont 2013.11.08

    I think you're being a bit hasty, Cory.

    In Timber Lake, SD, we're seeing our teachers embrace Common Core and its more challenging curriculum, successfully communicate the changes to students and parents, and most importantly, our oldest son (7th grade) now has no fear that he isn't learning at the level he should be learning at. He's finally challenged in math. His teacher said everyone in his 'upper math' class is challenged and some kids who whizzed through are fighting to get Cs, but that's okay. They'll be the better for it. They're learning to study and are getting better grades as they go along.

    Our third grade son's teacher also admits they will be starting math concepts earlier in the year now because of Common Core. Our son is also doing well with that, but as far as I can tell they are utilizing extra teaching aides in the classroom to get kids caught up and keep kids from falling behind with the new curriculum.

    Might actually be no child left behind in practice, rather than theory.

  2. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.08

    In today's Strib there is a column about education in Norway. Norway's outcomes rank highly and the mother who wrote the column said their system and style were very helpful to her son. If you are interested in what they do differently in Norway, check out this link:

  3. Lanny V Stricherz 2013.11.08

    "What did we get for it? Nothing noticeable, at least here in South Dakota:" Sorry to disagree, but we did get a cut in funding and teacher pay for all of the teachers' work. That from a gubernatorial candidate who promised in 2010 to fund education.

  4. SVinRC 2013.11.09

    Jenny, students in 5th grade in Rapid City attend Starbase, it is a popular program among the students.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.09

    Thanks for reopening that wound and adding salt, Lanny! ;-)

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.09

    Starbase: sounds useful! But I'd also like more camps for artists and English majors.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.09

    Deb: family moves to Norway, and son's ADHD disappears? Fascinating! Shorter school days, no focus on computers, more outdoor time and field trips... and better educational outcomes? Also fascinating! Neither NCLB nor Common Core appears to move in those directions.

  8. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.09

    I worry about the pressure on American children that seems to begin with kindergarten. I think it's counterproductive. Apparently Norway does too. Judging from the Strib story, less pressure works!

Comments are closed.