Wednesday, October 3

Ravitch on NCLB

The headline on Diane Ravitch's op-ed piece in the Times today reads "Get Congress Out of the Classroom." It's a shame that title obscures the important point Ravitch makes about the necessary role of federal government in public schooling.

The piece's main point is that No Child Left Behind needs serious revision. The transfers it purports to make possible don't take place in practice, the law leaves decisions about school sanctions to congressmen unfamiliar with education policy, and worst of all, the law pays lip service to a goal that is ultimately unattainable.

But Ravitch also points out a crucial role that federal government should play in public education: that of providing full information about our schools. The current NCLB law, by requiring constant improvement on test scores while leaving test design up to the states, has created a perverse incentive to write absurdly easy standardized tests. Instead, Ravitch argues, Congress should "supply unbiased information about student academic performance," presumably by mandating nationwide standardized tests and publishing the results. Such an arrangement would allow local governments to take the actions best suited for their individual schools while nevertheless providing a standardized national benchmark of accountability.

1 comment:

Philissa said...

Hi, Ben.
I'm curious -- do you think it's realistic to imagine national standards without national consequences?