A Washington-based think tank has named Maryland No.1 in the country for the performance of its low-income students, finding that in the last eight years, Maryland's poorest students made the most academic progress than any comparable population in the nation.

The report, published by Education Sector, an independent policy and research group, examined what it called the "The New State Achievement Gap," and whether new waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind Act could help or hurt the growth states have experienced under the embattled education policy started under the administration of George W. Bush. 

Critics and supporters of NCLB agree that, while controversial for its elusive goals, the policy has helped target the achievement of students that have historically been disadvantaged in the classroom, such as low-income and special education students.

To that end, states have seen growth among its low-income students--with Maryland leading the way, the report says. New Jersey came in second, followed by Massachusetts, Washington, D.C. and Alabama.

The report looked at the performance of students who receive free and reduced lunch on the National Assessment of Educational Progress -- the standardized test known as "the Nation's Report Card," which showed that between 2003 and 2011, reading and math scores doubled among Maryland's fourth and eighth graders.

Maryland's success, the report said, is attributed to sound educational policy.

You can read the full report, here.

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