A good school leaves a few behind

Despite years of high scores without really trying, Oyster River Middle School is trying test prep to meet No Child Left Behind targets, writes Michael Winerip in the New York Times. The school in a prosperous New Hampshire town “needs improvement” because some special ed students aren’t proficient on the state exam, he writes.

In September the school announced a new motto, “Fill the Box.” Students have been told that their best chance for a high score on the state English test is to use all the blank space allotted for the essay. “You have to write as much as you can,” says Jay Richard, the principal. “People have studied these things.”

Actually, writing well works too.

The school also makes sure students get a good night’s sleep and eat “brain food” before the state tests.

In hopes of raising reading scores, Principal Richard, a former special education teacher, has decided to pull special ed students from mainstream classes at times for individual instruction.

Will this be better or just different?

“I believe we can do better,” Mr. Richard said. “We have to. This is the law.”

OK, the principal thinks it’s better. Surely, that’s a good thing.

Under Arne Duncan’s waivers, schools wouldn’t need to focus as much on low-achieving subgroups, Winerip writes. Isn’t that a bad thing? Apparently not.

Winerip’s story shows why No Child Left Behind was necessary, responds Eduwonk. It’s easy to ignore special ed students (the school’s low-income students may be lagging too),  if nobody’s looking.  “What about the poor students or special education students there? Don’t they matter?”


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