If the No Child Left Behind law, focused on raising test scores, proves to be a dead end, what do we do next? I rarely read or hear intelligent discussion of this question. The Pentagon has battle plans from A to Z. Why do those of us who care about schools keep bickering over the current system, rather than expand the debate to realistic alternatives?
Thankfully, one of the most thoughtful and imaginative education scholars, Richard Rothstein, has come to the rescue. As usual, I am getting to his new book, “Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right,” a few months later than I should have, making it the latest selection of my Better Late Than Never Book Club. It is a must-read for anyone who wonders, as I often have, how we might replace or augment standardized testing with measures of what is happening in the classroom beyond just the few days in spring when our kids take the state tests.
Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a former national education columnist for the New York Times. He spent much of his career as an analyst of school district spending. No one knows more than he does about the strange ways we use our education dollars. In the past few years he has become an articulate national spokesman for the view that our urban public schools cannot succeed unless health, social and employment issues are addressed in those communities with the same passion and persistence that the teachers I write about put toward classroom learning issues.