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[Susan notes: I wish that Sobol, whom I admire (despite his allegiance to standards-setting), had acknowledged that schools cannot be given sole--or even major--responsibility for closing the achievement gap. Interesting that the Times neglected to mention that Sobol was once NY Commissioner of Education.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Michael J. Petrilli ("School Reform Moves to the Suburbs," Op-Ed, July 11) writes that the promise of the No Child Left Behind law is "in danger of being squandered," as the country's suburbs petition for relief from the requirement that test results be reported separately for different groups of students - white, black, Hispanic, Asian, low-income or those with special needs.

Most school superintendents do not advocate that the requirement be removed. Keeping track of all our students is an essential practice that should be maintained. But many of the law's flaws and unintended consequences argue for revision.

We are concerned about inadequate financing, the shortage of effective teachers, the misuse of standardized tests, the lumping together of all special-education students despite their wide differences, and the consequences for failure to meet yearly progress goals.

But the central purpose of the law, which is to raise the achievement level of all students and to close the achievement gap between majority and minority subgroups, should be unassailable.

The writer is professor of outstanding educational practice at Teachers College, Columbia University. The letter was also signed by 50 urban, suburban and rural school superintendents.

Thomas Sobol and 50 superintendents

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