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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Something's gotta give

The education policy community is buzzing this week about a new report from the Fordham Foundation that high-achieving students have not done as well as low-achieving students under No Child Left Behind. What I don't understand is why anyone is at all surprised by this. As I pointed out last week, life (and economics) is all about choices and the classroom isn't any different. Eduwonk puts it well:
...choices do have to be made. It doesn't mean that we throw different groups of student under the bus, but any accountability system that holds people accountable for everything holds them accountable for nothing. So choices have to be made about emphasis. And considering the yawning achievement gaps, graduation rate gaps, and outcome gaps that separate poor and minority students from other students, that's where I'd argue the emphasis should be placed.
Of course, you can avoid such choices if you spend more resources (more teachers, more hours in the classroom, more days in the school year). Unfortunately, policymakers and the general public routinely assume that public schools (and I'd extend this up to higher ed) don't need additional resources, they just somehow should do more with what they have. Since no one is going to argue that schools should do less for low-achieving students, surely one response to the Fordham report could be to call for additional resources so high-achievers are not left out. I'm not holding my breath but it could be very interesting to see if the policy response is any different when it is the parents of high-achievers (who, let's face it, are more likely to be affluent, well-educated and white) who are making those calls.

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