A poor child may be left behind

June 14, 2005

The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandates standardized testing of students in public schools. A study published in the latest issue of Psychological Science is one of the first and only to use a model of scientifically grounded research to test and show that students' poverty level and location do affect their performance on these high-stakes achievement tests, as it limits their access to qualified instructors. The research showed that highly-quality teachers, those the NCLB mandated as having a teaching license and certification in their subject area, have an effect on passing test scores. As the poverty level of a school's population grows, fewer highly qualified teachers are in the classroom. Additionally, students in large cities and rural areas have less access to qualified instructors compared to small urban and suburban areas.

The study used data from more than 1,000 Virginia schools, ranging from large city, small urban, and rural areas with student populations across poverty levels. For example, in a school with an eight-grade population of 400, not an uncommon number, we can be fairly confident that a one point increase in the percentage of highly qualified teachers would be associated with nine to twenty more children passing Virginia's SOL tests. "On average, in high-poverty schools, 20% of classes are taught by non-highly qualified personnel, and 40% of the students fail the writing test," author Peter Tuerk states. With NCLB regulations, students in many states are finding themselves in the difficult predicament of having to improve their academic performance without the benefit of adequate educational resources.
This study is published in the June issue of Psychological Science. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net

The flagship journal of the American Psychological Society, Psychological Science publishes authoritative articles of interest across all of psychological science, including brain and behavior, clinical science, cognition, learning and memory, social psychology, and developmental psychology.

Peter W. Tuerk teaches in the department of Psychology at the University of Virginia and a Fellow of the Institute of Education Sciences. He is expected to receive his Ph.D. in 2006.

Professor Tuerk is available for questions and interviews

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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