The Unintended Consequences of Focusing on Proficiency
One of my worries about the emphasis on "proficiency" -- and the lack on emphasis on anything above proficiency -- is the unintended consequence of creating a two-tier, mostly segregated, educational system. Public school teach poor kids basic skills, and parents who want more than basic skills try to figure out how to get their kids into private schools -- or, if they can, move to affluent suburbs.
Now, public schools that teach poor kids basic skills are better than public schools that don't teach poor kids basic skills. But in my district -- which has an interesting demographic mix -- there's a clear tension between the "let's make sure everyone's proficient before we think about anything else" point of view, and the "we need to make sure each kid makes a year's progress every year" point of view.
And it's pretty clear that if parents get the idea that no one at a school is interested in much besides proficiency, you start losing the proficient kids to private schools and charter schools -- which then exacerbates the social inequality that "closing the achievement gap" is supposed to end.
Hat tip to Scott McLeod for making the commenter graphic.