The New York Times ran an interesting op-ed yesterday from Tom Loveless and Michael Petrilli called "Smart Child Left Behind." It made the point that many Gifted Exchange readers have made in recent years: that No Child Left Behind is a wash at best for top achieving kids. This has the advantage (if you wish to look at it that way) of narrowing the achievement gap, though it's not clear that should be our top national educational goal.
What makes it more timely is that apparently the Center on Education Policy released a study finding that more students were making it to the "advanced" level on state NCLB tests (from the proficient level), thus indicating that top students were doing great too. But Loveless and Petrilli claim that these are simply small incremental gains, and that other tests (like the NAEP) don't show much upward movement. And, of course, we've pointed out here on Gifted Exchange that on international comparisons, the top 10% of US students would be considered middle-of-the-pack in countries such as Finland and South Korea. NCLB has not changed that.
As I've written before, I think the aims of No Child Left Behind are good. There needs to be accountability in schools, and the law is an improvement on having no accountability. What we need now is to stop using all these state tests -- some of which seem to declare you proficient if you can write your name -- and instead create a common, benchmarked national one, or use one that already exists for international comparisons. Our goal should not only be to raise achievement among kids most at risk of being left behind, but to have the top 10% of American students be the top 10% in the world. We are no where near that now, NCLB or no.