Sign of the end Times

It’s getting chilly in hell: The New York Times has a front-page story crediting “President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law” with focusing efforts on raising achievement of poor and minority students.

Spurred by President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, educators across the nation are putting extraordinary effort into improving the achievement of minority students, who lag so sharply that by 12th grade, the average black or Hispanic student can read and do arithmetic only as well as the average eighth-grade white student.

Here in Boston, low-achieving students, most of them blacks and Hispanics, are seeing tutors during lunch hours for help with math. In a Sacramento junior high, low-achieving students are barred from orchestra and chorus to free up time for remedial English and math. And in Minnesota, where American Indian students, on average, score lower than whites on standardized tests, educators rearranged schedules so that Chippewa teenagers who once sewed beads onto native costumes during school now work on grammar and algebra.

Another story reports, somewhat belatedly, New York City charter eighth graders are considerably more likely to be reading and writing at grade level than comparable public school students. Charter fourth graders have a slight edge.

Eduwonk suggests stocking up on canned goods and firearms to prepare for the apocalypse. If you’re on a budget, remember that repenting of your sins is a low-cost option.

Update: Betsy describes just what changed when North Carolina linked teacher bonuses to student achievement gains in reading and math. All teachers get a bonus if their school’s students improve by a certain amount. Before: Teachers discussed ideas for improvement but little was implemented. After the law passed, things changed.

I was teaching in a magnet school where middle school students could take three electives a quarter. We had talked for years about requiring kids with low reading and writing skills to take targeted electives. Now, finally, this was put into place. The principal moved some money around to hire a couple of teachers whose sole job was to work with those students. We tried new computer-teaching programs that targeted specific weaknesses in reading. We began new math electives to reteach basic skills. An afterschool tutoring program and even some Saturday classes began.

And, guess what, our school, which had a mix of academically gifted students and neighborhood kids who had low skills, started to see some nice improvement in the basic reading and math skills of those lower-achieving students.

Accountability works.

About Joanne


  1. Let’s not get carried away. One robin doth not spring make.

    I’ll wait until the Grey Lady demonstrates an ongoing commitment to journalism before I start stockpiling canned food and warm clothes.

    This could be nothing more then the token staff journalist getting some ink. You have to let them write a story now and then or they get sulky.