And on the same day, they recycled this piece by Chester Finn from Feb. 2008 on the virtues of NCLB:
Article | 01/16/2009
William J. Bennett and Rod Paige (washingtonpost.com)
Now I appreciate WaPo's money-saving efforts to make money for their crumbling empire, but in the interest of full disclosure on Finn's views on NCLB, I would like to include here some chunks from a revealing piece by the same Chester Finn for National Review:
Article | 01/16/2009
Chester E. Finn Jr. (washingtonpost.com)
The truth is, despite all the fuss and feathers about NCLB, there’s little agreement on exactly what ails or what might cure it — which is not to say there’s a shortage of advice. A five-foot shelf of books, studies, reports, commission recommendations, etc. is rapidly accumulating. (I plead guilty to having helped contribute a few inches.) Its very amplitude attests not only to the length and complexity of the law, but also to the disputed nature of what, exactly, is awry in NCLB 1.0 and what should be the essential attributes of version 2.0. Even more important, underlying all the technical specifics are five immense dilemmas that go to the heart of the matter.
Is NCLB’s grand goal itself naïve and unrealistic? Politicians pledge that no child will be left behind, yet I don’t know a single educator who seriously thinks 100 percent of American children can become “proficient” (according to any reasonable definition of that term) by 2014 in reading and math. Exemptions have already been made for seriously disabled youngsters. In truth, raising American kids from their current proficiency level of some 30 percent to 70 or 80 percent would be a remarkable, nation-changing achievement, yet I can’t imagine a lawmaker conceding this. The first thing hurled back at him would be “which 20 percent of the kids don’t matter to you?”
. . . .
Can Washington successfully pull off anything as complex and ambitious as NCLB in so vast and loosely coupled a system as American K–12 education, one in which millions of “street-level bureaucrats” can ignore, veto, or undermine the plans of distant lawmakers and regulators? I’m no great fan of local control of schools but I’m even less a fan of bureaucratic over-reaching.
Do the likely benefits exceed the ever clearer costs? Boosting skill levels and closing learning gaps are praiseworthy societal goals. But even if we were surer that NCLB would attain them, plenty of people — parents, teachers, lawmakers, and interest groups — are alarmed by the price. I don’t refer primarily to dollars. (They’re in dispute, too, with most Democrats wrongly insisting that they’re insufficient.) I refer to things like a narrowing curriculum that sacrifices history, art, and literature on the altar of reading and math skills; to schools that spend ever more of the year prepping kids to pass tests; to gifted pupils being neglected so as to pull low achievers over the bar; and to the homogenizing of schools — including charter schools — that crave the freedom to be different and offer parents distinctive choices.
So long as these monster questions lack agreed-upon answers, I don’t see much hope for an NCLB consensus, and I don’t see much hope for NCLB 2.0 anytime soon.
— Chester E. Finn Jr. is senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.