"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, May 21, 2006

2014 Cannot Happen

The distribution of children's test scores along a "normal" curve has everything in the world to do with fairness (or a lack thereof). How "normal" is the distribution of test scores when we all know that it is largely determined by and is a measure of affluence, not academic achievement?

The truly seismic shift with NCLB is that such "normal" distributions run directly counter to the stated goal of NCLB: all children will reach the proficient or advanced level in the tested subjects by 2014. What I have not fully appreciated until today -- a major "a-ha moment" -- is that this is really, really, really not possible. I'd always seen the goal of 2014 as a misty-eyed attempt for the nation to become Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average. In short, it was just plain stupid and criminally naive to say that all kids could reach the proficient or advanced level, including kids with IEP's for whom it had already been determined that grade level proficiency ain't gonna happen ever. That's why they have IEP's - to recognize and compensate for the fact that they are not at grade level. Hello!

But, with this newest insight, I see that 2014 is not only stupid and criminally naive, it just plain won't ever happen because the very thing that is used to determine whether or not kids are at grade level -- the standardized test -- has built within it at its very core a mechanism that will always produce advanced, proficient, and not proficient students. Not sometimes produce. Always produce.

How unclothed does the Emperor have to be before we call him naked?

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