Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NCLB Supporter Changes Mind

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and once a supporter of No Child Left Behind. She has a new book out on the subject and writes in The New Republic why she has changed her mind:
As I assayed the evidence about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), I concluded that it has failed. The testing regime that NCLB installed in every public school has not improved American education. By mandating that scores in reading and math must constantly rise, the federal law has removed any incentive to teach the arts, science, history, literature, foreign languages, geography, civics, or any other non-tested subject.

NCLB requires that all students must be proficient in reading and math by 2014. When the legislation was signed in 2002, this goal was wildly unrealistic--and now, it is merely laughable. The target date is only four years away, but no state is remotely close to 100 percent proficiency. Indeed, in 2008, 35,000 of the nation’s schools bore the stigma of "failing" because they weren't making sufficient progress toward that utopian target.

What NCLB has done with its proficiency deadline is set a timetable for the demolition of American public education. In an effort to meet NCLB’s unattainable goal and avoid the "failing" label, most states have dumbed down their standardized tests or their definitions of proficiency. Many states claim that large majorities of their students are “proficient” in reading or math, but their claims are refuted by federal assessments (called the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP) that are given to all students in fourth and eighth grades every other year. For example, Texas reported that 85 percent of its students in those grades were proficient readers based on year-end state testing, but, on the NAEP, only 29 percent were. Nationwide, NAEP scores have gone up in math since 2003, but the rate of improvement has been less than before the passage of NCLB. In eighth-grade reading, there was no improvement at all from 1998 to 2007.
She has reached a similar verdict on the charter school movement.

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