Thursday, December 25, 2003

Scraping the Barrel

A new study out of California claims that NCLB punishes schools that serve diverse populations. As evidence they compare two schools in the Oakland area one of which serves a predominantly black population, the other which serves a more diverse population. The "average" test scores at the schools are comparable, but the latter school is labeled as failing because one of its subgroups has failed to meet its AYP benchmark for two years. The authors use this to make the outrageous claim that NCLB punishes diversity in schools.

The reality is, of course, that public schools have been failing certain subgroups of the population for over a generation. NCLB now forces schools to meet the educational needs to ALL students. Because test scores are disaggregated schools cannot hide behind average test scores. In other words a school that has 10% Z students would not be able to ignore their needs and paper over their failure by averaging out failing scores for Z with passing scores of A.

According to the researchers many of the 3,000 failing schools in California were labeled as such because of the lack of progress of one subgroup. But then the leap is made that NCLB must therefore be bad policy (and the public education apologists are already trotting out this research to discredit NCLB). Nothing could be further from the truth. By holding schools accountable to all their subgroups through testing and the resulting public criticism and pressure, we help to ensure that adequate resources will flow to the subgroup in order to raise their test scores and provide a quality education.

Now ask yourself- how can anyone be opposed to something that will provide quality education to all kids, regardless of race, gender or special need?

NYT story


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