Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.
The article provides some great graphs that show black/white children's scores for reading and math for the last 37 years. Interestingly, the graphs show steady improvements for both subjects and both demographics that Dillon ignores. James Taranto has a provocative response questioning whether Dillon would have been happier had the data shown static white achievement and increasing black achievement.
So minority kids are doing better than before. But because white kids are also doing better, and therefore the "gap" remains, the Times suggests the law is a failure. By this measure, it would have been better to pass a law that only benefits minorities than one that benefits everyone.Ouch!
To be fair, closing the racial gap was one of the stated goals of No Child Left Behind. But what a strange, uncritical attitude the Times has toward the federal government when it reports with a straight face that the law is a failure because it seems to have helped children of all races, rather than observing that this calls into question whether the goal made any sense in the first place.
It made me think of a more problematic question. The graphs show a gap that's been pretty stubborn for 37 years and although the article was written to criticize NCLB as ineffective law since it hasn't closed the gap it was written to address, there's a bigger story here. The only significant gap reduction follows school desegregation and then, essentially nothing. In fact you could use the graphs to make a pretty good case that the last 37 years have seen nothing but improvement in math while in reading, NCLB seems to have reversed a bit of white decline and black stagnation. The real question to ponder here is why the gap seems immune to change.
You certainly can't claim there hasn't been a lot of effort expended in trying to close the gap. I would argue that much of the curricular turmoil of the last two generations is driven in large part by these very attempts. Federal and state involvement in local schools has also been accelerated by this effort. The evidence says that pushing on teacher quality, curriculum, administration, pedagogy, unions, pay, charters, vouchers, and everything else in the kitchen sink has accomplished little by way of closing the gap.
The gap represents about a three year difference in grade level. Could it be that having classrooms populated with kids exhibiting this gap, being fed a curriculum designed for the median student in the room is a problem? The one thing I've never seen addressed (except in very limited settings) is this curricular mismatch.
The graphics lay it out starkly. These are two completely different sets of kids. Three years difference is huge. Keeping them together in the name of racial equality or equal access is never going to close the gap. Everything we've done is piddling on the edges of a conflagration. If you really mean to close the gap then that educational goal has to stand in line ahead of our social goals until it's fixed, doesn't it?
Could it be that the slopes we see on these graphs are due to all the piddling around the edges while the gap is due to ignoring the obvious need to provide appropriate curricula? Could it be true that the shallow slope is an artifact of having an inappropriate mix in the classroom. And finally, would the slopes of both demographics improve with more appropriate placement?
Once a child is identified as being three years behind it shouldn't matter whether they are purple, from the planet Ork; they need placement that is appropriate to get them back on track. Anything less is just child abuse disguised as political correctness.
stagnation at the top - Fordham report
Tracking: Can It Benefit Low Achieving Children?
Linda Valli on tracking in 5 Catholic high schools, 1
Linda Valli on tracking in 5 Catholic high schools, 2
"school commitment" in Valli's study of tracking in Catholic high schools
7th grade depression starts in 1st grade
ability grouping in Singapore
characteristics of schools where SAT scores did not decline
The Other Crisis in American Education by Daniel Singal
Hiding in Plain Sight: grouping & the achievement gap
tracking: first random-assignment study
SAT equivalence tables
SAT I Individual Score Equivalents
SAT I Mean Score Equivalents
chickens have come home to roost
the deathless meme of the high performing school
Allison on the naturals