Let’s Not Focus on the Achievement Gap

The Milwaukee Talkie:

A thought-provoking essay in the current issue of National Affairs by the prolific and sardonic Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute calls for a retreat from education reform’s long-held focus on closing the achievement gap. Hess feels the federal No Child Left Behind Act has, ironically, become “education policy that has shortchanged many children.” His thesis is that by focusing on improving achievement scores of the lowest performing subgroups of students, opportunities for reform that would also benefit the other students have been passed up. The result is that many parents, educators, principals, and elected officials see school reform as inapplicable to the average- or highly-performing students who make up the majority of children in most classrooms across the country.
Which begs the question–if most children in the country are, in fact, being served pretty well by their public schools (and there can be strong arguments made that children who are white, or female, or upper class, or suburban are served well enough by public schools), then why should the adults who care for and educate them want to reform their schools? Should education reform affect change throughout the system or should it focus more narrowly on those students poorly served by public schooling?