The federal No Child Left Behind Act has succeeded in highlighting the poor math and reading skills of disadvantaged children. But on balance, the law has done more harm than good because it has terribly distorted the school curriculum. Modest modifications cannot correct this distortion. Designing a better accountability policy will take time. We cannot and should not abandon school accountability, but it's time to go back to the drawing board to get accountability right.
The first step is to understand today's curricular distortion. It has arisen because No Child Left Behind holds schools accountable for only some of their many goals. When we demand adequate math and reading scores alone, educators rationally respond by transferring resources to math and reading instruction (and drill) from social studies, history, science, the arts and music, character development, citizenship education, emotional and physical health, and physical fitness.
This shift has been most severe for the disadvantaged children the law was designed to help, because they are most at risk of failing to meet the math and reading targets. But they are also most at risk of losing curricular opportunities in other domains. In these other areas, NCLB has widened the "achievement gap." ...
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
This from Richard Rothstein in Ed Week, Illustration by Nip Rogers: