Kill NCLB?

Mr. Obama: Kill NCLB writes Jay Mathews in Class Struggle. Accountability will survive without the federal law, he writes. Instead, we should set “national standards — with a uniform national test” to back them up. States would decide how to meet standards and what to do about schools that fail.

The many different state tests, despite valiant efforts by thoughtful policy makers, started soft and have gotten softer. They set a mediocre standard, and are often so different that it is difficult to tell if a high score in Texas is any better than a low score in Massachusetts. Let’s have one test. In fact, to save money, let’s just make the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress, now given to only a sample of students in each state, the test everybody has to take.

Public opinion will push states to pay attention to schools that aren’t meeting standards, as long as the data is public, Mathews argues.

This is Checker Finn’s plan, as Mathews writes, and it makes a certain amount of sense. The time and energy now devoted to NCLB compliance could be devoted to arguing over what the national exam should test and how to test it. That would be a useful argument.

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Comments

  1. Independent George says:

    The time and energy now devoted to NCLB compliance could be devoted to arguing over what the national exam should test and how to test it.

    Oh sweet merciful crap – that is one debate I am not looking forward to.

  2. Judge Crater says:

    Too bad we can’t just admister the ITBS nationally. Then you could have a true benchmark of where your kid/school/district/state compares to the rest of the country.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    Oh geez…trust educators to do the right thing and set standards high? Not in a million years — NCLB proved very few of them are trustworthy — someone has to set the standards high for all rather than so many states setting low hurdles for seven years only to fail miserably when NCLB was NOT appealed and the students showed how poorly educated they were and had been.

    Judge Crater — why can the ITBS not be administered nationally? What are the obstacles…if there is already a good test why inent another one and make another testing company rich? What about the Iowa test (forgetting what it is called)?

  4. Independent George says:

    someone has to set the standards high for all rather than so many states setting low hurdles for seven years only to fail miserably when NCLB was NOT appealed and the students showed how poorly educated they were and had been.

    You’ve answered your own question. If state legislators couldn’t be trusted with that responsibility, what makes you so optimistic that it can be done on a national level? I think the probability goes down, not up.

  5. Educators looked at 100% compliance requirements for 2014, realized it was an impossibility for even the best schools with the smartest kids, and decided that the goal of NCLB was to destroy public education by labeling all schools as “failing.” Thus they quite rationally decided that they needed to game the system.

  6. Paul Hoss says:

    Joanne,

    Jay Matthews is on target. National standards with corresponding national tests (NAEP’s would be fine) are a must if students across the US are to realize an equal education opportunity.

    Too many states are currently administering “feel good” tests relative to the federal tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly referred to as the “nation’s report card.”

    In 2005 Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math and found eighty-seven percent of students performed at or above proficient while the NAEP test indicated only 21 percent of Tennessee’s eighth graders proficient in math. In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficient on the state reading test, while only 18 percent demonstrated proficiency on the federal test. In Alabama 83 percent of fourth-grade students scored at or above proficient on the state’s reading test while only 22 percent were proficient on the NAEP test. In Georgia, 83 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficient on the state reading test, compared with just 24 percent on the federal test.

    Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Virginia, and Texas were also found guilty in their determinations of proficient when compared to the federal NAEP test.

    No Child Left Behind will never be able to realize its potential as long as entire states are left behind due to the duplicitous efforts of their respective officials. It’s simply an issue of equity.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    The change would also allow educators to return to the practice of hiding the failure(s) of subgroups by averaging their grades in with the high acheivers.
    Win/win.

  8. American Power tracked-back with, ‘States Ease Standards for High School Exit Exams’.

  9. Steve Quist says:

    Tough choice. A national standard becomes a single point of failure. If the test is inadequate, the whole nation is screwed. The current NCLB gives each state a incentive to succeed but also an opportunity to fail. There’s no single point of failure but there’s a virtual certainty that there will be some failures.

    Maybe it’s unfair to look at social problems in engineering terms. I think it helps clarify the choices.

    Jay has a point that some national standards are needed to hold the state’s feet to the fire, to dissuade them from watering down their standards. Somehow each state’s educators need to explain why their standards are not as good as Massachusett’s.

    I share the commenter’s misgivings about the process leading up to true national standards. IMO, the Education Dept., at least under this administration, is beholden to the NEA. They cannot be trusted to support meaningfully high standards.

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    Mike,

    Your hypothesis suffers from a logical flaw. No matter how easy the test, some people will fail. No matter how easy states make their tests, they’re going to miss the ridiculous goal.

    I prefer a simpler explanation: they just don’t want to admit how many students haven’t learned much.

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