Wednesday, March 14, 2007

WP: 'No Child' Target Is Called Out of Reach

The Washington Post has often toed to inside-the-beltway line that NCLB mandates and sanctions are both achieveable and working. Today's article gives reality a passing nod, by pointing out a couple of the things I've said here.

Two items in particular:

But testing experts say there are vast academic differences among children of the same racial or socioeconomic background. Countries with far less racial diversity than the United States still find wide variations in student performance. Even in relatively homogenous Singapore, for example, a world leader in science and math tests, a quarter of the students tested are not proficient in math, and 49 percent fall short in science.


Although no major school system is known to have reached 100 percent proficiency, Education Department officials pointed to individual schools across the country that have reached the standard as evidence that it is possible. In Virginia, schools have achieved universal proficiency on reading and math tests 45 times since 2002, officials said.

The only school they cited in the Washington region as having met that mark was the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, a regional school with selective admissions. Principal Evan M. Glazer said his school, which has an elite reputation, was hardly a representative example. On whether the nation can replicate that success, Glazer said: "I don't think it's very realistic."

I doubt that inconvenient truths will change the zeitgeist inside the beltway, where rhetorical flourish trumps reality, but who knows?

On the home front in Massachusetts, the policy issue relevant to this article regards Massachusetts' position having the most stringent proficiency standard in the nation. Which pre-ordains about 98% of schools as failing, even if they beat Singapore's achievements in math performance. As I pointed out here, only Boston Latin Academy - an exam school - currently comes close to meeting the 100% proficiency standard that will soon be required of all schools in Massachusetts.

This blog is going to focus on problems in the funding formulas, also overseen by the MASS DOE, in the coming months, rather than on the testing and sanctions side of schools. We'll probably be back to focusing on testing again next fall, once this spring's MCAS test scores start making headlines about failing schools again, but for the time being, we'll focus on inequities in the highly-regulated spending and aid allocation formulas in MASS.


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