Defining Achievement Downward

Today on the CRC’s Phil Brand and I take a look at how the debate over reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act is shaping up and what is not being discussed as openly: its negative effects on Achievers.

Here is a preview:

But NCLB already encourages states to game the system and avoid accountability.The law requires every child in grades 3 through 8 to be tested in math and reading every year. It stipulates that 100 percent of pupils must qualify as “proficient” on stateadministered exams by the 2013-14 academic year. School districts are supposed to set up a schedule to meet this requirement, which is commonly known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

But holding schools accountable to the AYP schedule has some bad effects. Most importantly, it encourages teachers and schools to focus heavily on “bubble” children currently near the proficiency level. Derek Neal, a University of Chicago economist who recently released a study of NCLB, found that schoolteachers are pressured to increase their proficiency numbers, while kids outside the bubble, particularly high achievers, are slighted.

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