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Convenient Arguments

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There's something a bit too convenient about the most recent "bubble" kids study that says low- and high-performing kids are being left behind, while "bubble" kids in the middle get all the attention. Ditto for today's Clarence Page column in the Chicago Tribune, which riffs off of the study to -- no surprise -- call for lowering NCLB's proficiency requirements (Leaving children behind, again). You could argue that the bubble kids are increasingly higher-achieving, as the NCLB proficiency cutoff moves up over time. But the answer to teachers focusing on the middle kids (as they always have) doesn't seem to me to be lowering the NCLB proficiency standard. Instead lawmakers might think of giving schools extra credit for moving kids up from the bottom quartile, even if they still don't make AYP.
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I am not averse to giving schools credit for improving even when they do not meet the criteria of No Child Left Behind. But by not holding all schools to that floor, we are institutionalizing mediocrity.

I have no problem finding schools whose population is drawn from the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder whose students do exceed that floor. I have no problem finding suburban schools whose students perform like those in prep schools. I have no problem finding whole countries whose students outperform those of this country.

Why do we not do what these successful schools do? The answer is that there are too many interests arrayed against doing so. The successful schools seldom spend more money per pupil than comparable failing schools. Many have larger class sizes. But all of the best schools have one thing in common: the single minded commitment to using what works to teach all children. They accept no excuses, period. All resources are focused solely on achievement.

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