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Ravitch: Feds, States Should Switch Roles

Diane Ravitch, one of the nation's most influential education writers, gets prime real estate on today's New York Times op-ed page to argue for dramatic changes to NCLB. She calls the law "fundamentally flawed" and declares its goal of universal proficiency is "simply unattainable."

The law "has unleashed an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing that has reduced the time available for teaching other important subjects," she writes.

The solution, she concludes, is to have the federal government and states trade jobs. The feds would collect data that tell states how well their schools are doing; the states would use the data to design interventions in struggling schools. (Although she doesn't write the words "national test," Ravitch has supported national testing for a long time, dating back to her service under President Bush's father.)

"Washington should supply unbiased information about student academic performance to states and local districts," Ravitch writes. "It should then be the responsibility of states and local districts to improve performance."

She also says a key change would be to give up on the goal of universal proficiency. "Perpetuating this unrealistic ideal ... guarantees that increasing numbers of schools will 'fail' as the magic year of 2014 gets closer," she writes near the end.

Perhaps Ravitch's piece will add momentum to reconsidering the proficiency goal. But, at this late date, will it lead to a fundamental rethinking of the federal and state roles under the law?

P.S. I'm betting Ravitch will elaborate on her op-ed piece on the dialogue blog she writes with noted New York City educator Deborah Meier. Check for it here.

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