October 4, 2007

Get Congress Out of the Classroom?

Noted education scholar Diane Ravitch had an op-ed piece about the No Child Left Behind Act in yesterday’s New York Times. Entitled “Get Congress Out of the Classroom,” the opinion article had plenty of provocative lines. Among them:


“Despite the rosy claims of the Bush administration, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is fundamentally flawed…No Child Left Behind should be radically overhauled, not just tweaked…under current law, state education departments have an incentive to show that schools and students are making steady progress, even if they are not…The leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees are fine men, but they do not know how to fix the nation’s schools…Congress should also drop the absurd goal of achieving universal proficiency by 2014. Given that no nation, no state and no school district has ever reached 100 percent math and reading proficiency for all grades, it is certain that the goal cannot be met.”


But Ravitch’s larger point on the next iteration of the No Child Left Behind Act is the need for national standards, though that phrase never appears in the piece. “We will never know how well or poorly our students are doing until we have a consistent national testing program in which officials have no vested interest in claiming victory…Washington should supply unbiased information about student academic performance to states and local districts. It should then be the responsibility of states and local districts to improve performance,” she argues.


It’s a compelling argument. But it does raise the question as to whether such a goal can be accomplished when even supporters of national standards are wary of using the precise words that are their main objective.