Friday, August 28, 2009

Smart Child Left Behind

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.


din819go said...

But if those states that have more students making advanced are like Tennessee they have lowered the advanced cut score. In our case...advanced does not necessarily mean ahead of grade level.

Cheryl said...

My kid gets perfect scores or close to them on the state NCLB tests. Which he'd probably get with lousy teaching--nearly on his own.

Does that perfect score say he's doing okay, too? No. Nore does it say his teacher's good. Not when he's bored silly and hates school. Not if he's only learning math and reading because that's what's tested.

skey said...

Amen to that! What we gifted teachers (and our students) think all the time. I wonder what it will take to get others to wake up and smell the coffee.

The Princess Mom said...

The irony is that my state, Wisconsin, was using the nationally normed Terra Nova for grade level assessments until NCLB kicked in. Now, instead of their achievement being compared to students across the country, they are only compared to other students in Wisconsin. How does this help?

din819go said...

Tennessee did the exact same thing as Wisconsin. Of course, Tennessee has some of the weakest, if not the weakest standards in the country. This year the state has joined the diploma project and has supposedly raised standards. We won't know until we see the scores compared to the NAEP if the standards are stronger or not.