Learning Without Loopholes
With NCLB reauthorization on hold, we should move toward common standards—and fewer excuses.
Congressional leaders have finally acknowledged what most observers have known for months: The No Child Left Behind Act, the signature domestic legislation of the Bush administration, will not be reauthorized in the foreseeable future. And it should not be, at least not until the law’s blatant loopholes are addressed. The truth that no one in power seems willing to admit is that the federal law encourages statistical manipulations that make reports of academic progress suspect and, in some cases, virtually meaningless.
The well-intentioned 2001 legislation declares that all identifiable “subgroups” of students (those from low-income families, members of minority groups, students with disabilities, and others) must make what it calls “adequate yearly progress.” To put pressure on educators, the law says that if just one subgroup fails to make AYP, the entire school is deemed “in need of improvement.”
Ah, but the loopholes! The law lets states decide what constitutes academic proficiency and how large a subgroup needs to be before its scores count. It also allows states to use a statistical trick that can add 50 or more points...
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