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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