September 9, 2006

Backpedaling on the achievement gap

I've been puzzled by Kevin Carey's blog entries Thursday and Friday, in response to a Richard Rothstein essay and AFT's NCLBlog, respectively. Here's the critical claim of Carey (from Thursday):

NCLB is not based on the premise that good schools can erase the achievement gap. It's based on the premise that good schools can raise disadvantaged student performance to a defined level, proficiency.

In a word, dear readers, this is baloney (technical educational policy term). The mechanisms of AYP notwithstanding, rhetoric about NCLB has consistently been about the achievement gap. I'm not sure if Carey is echoing Fordham's Michael Petrilli (see my earlier entry on that), but when anyone starts to lowball expectations, it's, well, it's, well, ... soft bigotry? I'll avoid the purple prose and just note that defenders of the AYP mechanism and high-stakes testing are engaging in this rhetorical dance because NCLB and most accountability frameworks avoid concrete discussions of standards. We must have them, proficiency must be defined, but your everyday Joe wouldn't know what that means. Heck, I don't.

I'm not sure if we're headed towards the worst possible outcome of oversold education reforms (regression towards deterministic views of human capacity), but when defenders of high-stakes accountability start backpedaling as fast as they can from the rhetorical framework that's been the political underpinnings of NCLB, it's not good news. No, this is not earthshaking stuff, but I don't think it's helpful.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on September 9, 2006 6:44 AM |