EPI's Richard Rothstein, one of the leaders of the Broader Bolder Approach (BBA), lays out the big conundrum that is the Obama administration's approach to NCLB authorization. In his attempt to give Obama and Arne Duncan the benefit of the doubt, Rothstein pulls up every critical quote and campaign statement denouncing the school-blaming, testing-madness that is NCLB.
He [Duncan] has criticized NCLB's requirement that, rather than improve schools where test scores are inadequate, students are instead told to transfer out. In his September speech calling for re-authorization, Duncan charged that the NCLB system is “not education" but “game-playing tied to bad tests with the wrong goals...But the conversion of America's schools into testing factories has now made NCLB so unpopular that the law's name, again in Duncan's words, has become "toxic."And on and on...
"If Duncan sticks to these principles," says Rothstein, "the worst of NCLB will be behind us, although designing a new federal education policy will take us well beyond 2010."
But in practice, he writes, Duncan is taking "the wrong approach."
If standardized test-based accountability is doing the damage that Duncan has identified, it makes no sense to exacerbate that damage by continuing to rely on these tests to monitor progress. Such reliance will make it even harder to rescue American education in the future.