Tuesday, July 15, 2008

That's what I meant to say

Jay Matthews of the Washington Post has some clear thoughts on the Achievement Gap discussion that just plain make a lot of sense. Citing a study by the Fordham Institute about the impact of NCLB on high-achievers, Matthews thinks the achievement gap focus leads to some strange outcomes.

Here are some ways the gap could narrow: Low-income scores improve but high-incomes scores don't; low-income scores don't change but high-income scores drop; low-income scores drop but high-income scores drop even more. In each of those cases of gap-narrowing, something bad is happening.

Exactly! Narrowing the gap while improving all levels of performance is the obvious preference, but very difficult to attain. He has a better suggestion:

While we are at it, why not curtail all this achievement-gap talk? Let's focus instead on the progress of every child, no matter if she or he starts the year two grades behind classmates or two grades ahead. All children deserve a chance to climb as high as they can.

This is a much healthier approach to school improvement than closing the gap. The only aspect that really ticks me off about this is that my friend and I will need to scrap our idea to publish a breakthrough tome on the subject:

Drop the Top
Closing the Achievement Gap by bringing the high achievers down to size so we can all be in the same boat together (Then we'll have more people to bail the water out of that boat)

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