While there is not much I like about the way No Child Left Behind has been implemented, there are a few good things about the law. I agree with Eduwonk that the attention being paid to the achievement of various subgroups of students is laying bare the continuing achievement gap between middle/upper class (mostly white) and poor (mostly minority) students.
That gap is especially persistent in many suburban districts like the overly large system I work for. Which is exactly what the Post points out very clearly in a recent editorial. The writer notes that despite a big jump in the number of our schools that met Virginia standards for "full accreditation" – from 89% in 2003 to 95% this year – minority students in our system still lag far behind. The averages in this case, hide an awful lot.
Looking beyond the impressive overall scores and focusing on the scores when they are broken down by "subgroup" — something the county is required to do by the much-reviled (in Virginia) No Child Left Behind Act — a different picture emerges. …minority test scores, particularly African-American test scores, remain significantly lower … than in other Virginia school systems, including some, such as Richmond’s, which are predominantly black…
The problem with NCLB is that it only points out the gap. It doesn’t offer any solutions beyond allowing the students to move to new schools – and that isn’t working. Maybe it’s time for this district that likes to call itself a "lighthouse" to step down off it’s pedestal and begin looking for ideas from other, less lofty systems. Whether you like the law or not (I still don’t), the concept of no child left behind is the only right way to run a school.
[Note: This would be a good place to mention that the opinions expressed in this space are strictly my own. I’m not running the district I work for and don’t speak for the people who do. We often disagree anyway.]
Saying the problem with NCLB is that it only points out the gap is like saying the problem with a thermometer is that it doesn’t give a diagnosis.
On the other hand, the problem with those who run school systems, especially overly large ones, is that they believe it is up to them to find the answers. Teachers are the folks who can find the answers, given time and opportunity to work together on problems they identify in their students’ learning, and a structure for conducting that work.