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The 'left behind' kids made incredible progress from the late 1990s until the Great Recession.

from Education Next (commentary)

From the mid to late 1990s, and generally until 2010 or so, National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, scores at the fourth and eighth grades for the lowest-achieving children, and for students of color, shot up in reading, math and most other academic subjects. The gains were greatest at the low end of the spectrum — as seen in trends at the 10th percentile of achievement and a big drop in the percentage of students scoring at the "below basic" level. By 2010 or so, our African American, Hispanic and low-achieving students were reading and doing math two and sometimes three grade levels above their counterparts in the early 1990s. That's historic, life-changing progress. And it surely contributed to more recent gains in the high school graduation rate for these groups, as many more kids came into ninth grade closer to being on track. more

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