A reader involved in these issues emailed this article by Andrew Rotherham:
Second, the story highlights my colleague Tom Toch’s criticism that a lot of tests states are using under NCLB are pretty basic. That’s exactly right. I’m all for better tests, but isn’t that, you know, an indictment of schools that can’t even get kids over a pretty low bar rather than an indictment of the law? In other words, excepting some fine-grained issues around special populations, NCLB can’t be wildly unrealistic in what it demands of schools and really basic at the same time, can it? The story doesn’t sift through that in detail but would be nice if some journo would.* The reality is that we don’t deliver a very powerful instructional program in a lot of schools, and that’s not the fault of NCLB.
*Related, there is a tension between high-performing students and low-performing ones in terms of where to put resources and attention. Not completely binary, and plenty of students falling behind today could be high performers in better schools. But still there and mostly talked about in code words rather than forthrightly: Are we as a nation better off really focusing on the millions of kids at the wrong end of the achievement gap even if its suboptimal for kids on the high end? And spare me the rhetoric about how you can easily do both. You can to some extent but constrained resources, carrots and sticks in policy, and time constraints all make tradeoffs a reality.
A few other readers have mentioned that this is a conversation Madison needs to have.