How to close the education gap

The oddest couple, Joel Klein and Al Sharpton, have advice for closing the achievement gap.

First, the federal government, working with the governors, should develop national standards and assessments for student achievement. Our current state-by-state approach has spawned a race to the bottom, with many states dumbing down standards to make it easier for students to pass achievement tests. Even when students manage to graduate from today’s inner-city high schools, they all too frequently are still wholly unprepared for college or gainful employment.

Second, the federal government should take most of the more than $30 billion it now spends on K-12 education and reposition the funding to support the recruitment and retention of the best teachers in underserved urban schools.

In the Washington Post, Diane Ravitch urges Arne Duncan to scrap No Child Left Behind.

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  1. How bizarre that Joel Klein and Al Sharpton don’t even mention or discuss the results of Project Followthrough, which showed that you could achieve impressive results in low-income schools with existing teachers by improving the curriculum.

    I have no objection in principle to efforts to support the retention and recruitment of the best teachers, but it seems odd to place all the effort on this and not on methods shown to improve the effectiveness of schools overall.

    And as for Diane Ravitch, there’s something odd going on in her article. At the start, she criticses the NCLB for turning schools into testing factories, and says that Washington can’t do that sort of stuff, but at the end she calls for “insist that schools are accountable not only for educating their students in history, science, literature, civics, and the arts, but for safeguarding their health and development.” So she thinks that Washington can’t hold schools accountable for educating students in reading and maths, but should hold them accountable for educating students in history, science, literature, civics and the arts, all of which require decent reading skills and science also requires maths. Am I missing something here?