Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ya'll Can Relax And Breathe Deep

Much virtual ink has been spilled round here over the effects, merits, and consequences of NCLB legislature, and it looks like the trend will continue. A recent study serves to add data to our anecdotal and principle-dependent debate. The work,** entitled Accountability Incentives, looks at the achievement trajectory of kids during the reign of NCLB, and seeks to bring data into the debate over whether higher performing kids are getting the ol screw because of the focus on lower performing AYP endangering youngsters. Conclusion? They aren't. Author Matthew Springer concludes that schools aren't "trading off" performances for different groups, or sacrificing achievement of the highest and brightest.

I think this is so far a number of reasons.

1) The process of raising scores for your lowest achieving students requires a general improvement in all school functioning, the kind of rising tide that lifts all boats.

2) One can focus on more than one student group.

3) If my district is any indication of larger trend, schools just aren't agile enough in the use of data to provide different educational opportunities to different groups of students, as defined by student data. The idea that schools are capable, on a large scale, of providing structural and instructional differentiation seems far-fetched.

Now, Eric will agree with these results, but point out that the tests do not accurately measure the kind of higher order thinking skills and work product, and that performance in these areas might very well be in decline without our being aware of it. And Nancy will assert that while some poor kids are becoming better art critics, affluent kids are becoming artists. To which I reply, all this may be so, (or it may not be) but this study is a strong refutation to the kind of charge frequently laid at the NCLB doorstep, a charge that is increasingly baseless.

**I never really thought I'd be linking to the Hoover Institute, unless it was under the heading feckless thugs, but strange times make for strange bedfellows.


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