Fordham hosted a panel event this morning about our recent report, High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB. (Video will be available shortly.) As the moderator I'm biased, but I thought it was a great conversation among study authors Tom Loveless and Steve Farkas and respondents Josh Wyner (of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation) and Ross Wiener (of Education Trust).
Among the more contentious points of debate was whether our teachers have to choose between focusing on their low achievers or their high achievers, or whether through the magic of "differentiated instruction" they can reach everybody exactly where they are. (I think by the end there was almost-unanimous support for grouping students by ability--"the red birds and the blue birds"--as a way to solve this riddle.)
But the heart of the discussion was whether "closing achievement gaps" should be the only objective of our education system. Josh, for example, made an eloquent plea for greater attention for high-achieving students who are also poor, and suggested that a new NCLB focus on closing the "advanced achievement gap" along with the "proficiency gap." That's fine, but doesn't that still leave out most of the nation's high achievers who, let's be honest, aren't poor? Don't we care about them too? Or do we revert to the argument that "affluent gifted kids will take care of themselves"?
This is a big decision. Maybe, on equity grounds, it's right to focus almost obsessively on the education of poor and minority students,...