Ending the Bigotry of Low Expectations? No Child Left Behind and the Texas State Alternative Assessment for Students with Disabilities
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A stated intent of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is to address the inequities that children from historically marginalized groups have experienced in public education. The Texas assessment system following the authorization of NCLB served as the context for this study. State assessment data from 5669 students receiving special education services in Texas (2587 in reading, and 3082 in mathematics) were analyzed. The expectations set by individual education planning (IEP) teams for the performance of cohort groups of children taking enrolled grade-level, state alternate assessments (the SDAA-II) in reading and mathematics from 2005 through 2007 were studied and compared to actual performance disaggregated by student ethnic origin, status as having an economic disadvantage, or identification as having limited English proficiency. Chi-square, correlational, and repeated measures analyses of variance and covariance techniques were used to determine significant group differences. The findings indicate expectations set by IEP teams were low for all ethnic groups across the three-year period, but significantly so for children of color, particularly children of African American heritage. Expectations for children with economic disadvantages were significantly lower in the area of reading, and expectations for children identified as limited English proficient (LEP) were significantly lower than non-LEP children only for the initial testing year. Hispanic and African American children, and children from families with economic disadvantages performed at levels that were significantly lower than their White and non-disadvantaged peers, respectively. The results and findings of the study call into question the effectiveness of NCLB in producing its intended outcomes for children who have been historically marginalized, as well as the efficacy of special education, especially for African American children. Implications of the research are discussed including a call for additional study in the area of policy development related to bilingual and multicultural education, research exploring the effects of neoliberal versus social democratic approaches, and a comprehensive analysis of federal and state policy related to NCLB.