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A Horse Called NCLB

Publication Date: 2002-12-02

This is the beginning of a provocative commentary on NCLB. Read the rest at: http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/k0211lew.htm Everyone should subscribe to Phi Delta Kappan. Do it today.

WHEN the horse dies, many school reformers advise riders to dismount. Don't buy a new whip, don't form a committee to study the horse, and don't blame horses. In other words, when things are not working, change them.

The same advice should be given to those who are riding a crazy horse that is galloping at full speed toward a cliff. Get off and find a mount that will get you where you want to go -- presumably not the bottom of a precipice, with you in a mangled heap.

The trouble is that one particularly crazy horse -- test-based accountability under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act -- is being ridden by advocates for poor children and guardians of "rigorous standards" for all as if it were a Kentucky Derby winner instead of a maniac steed bent on self-destruction. Let's be brutally honest. The early evidence of the impact of NCLB's test-based accountability on the states indicates that it is undermining many good policies, fostering some bad ones, and creating resentments that will not ease until better policies are developed and put in place. The growing criticism of the policies does not mean that people reject the goals of the legislation or the goals of accountability per se. Rather, the criticism stems from a realization that current standardized, high-stakes testing narrows the whole enterprise of education and could halt the development of truly significant improvements in teaching and learning. . . .

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