Show me the race to the bottom
January 18, 2006
When Gadfly suggested that NCLB encourages states to lower standards to make their schools look better, certain readers were critical. But the Show-Me State has shown us. Missouri legislators and educators conspired to reduce the difficulty of their state test - which formerly had been one of the toughest in the country - to, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put it, "help cast Missouri in a more favorable light under the federal No Child Left Behind Act." As for explaining what's wrong with this approach, former state Education Commissioner Robert Bartman said it well (to the Kansas City Star): "It doesn't do any good to just look better if in fact we aren't really better....It's like dressing up to go to the dance and still (you) can't dance." To continue the analogy - at least Missouri is "dressing up" its test scores in the middle of the well-lit dance floor of public debate and not being bashful about its unfortunate motives. The real scandal is when states, crouching behind the bleachers, lower their standards in secret and hope nobody will notice. For those who deny that a race to the bottom has begun, it's time to face the music. And for those who want to solve the problem, sashay on over to this Education Week chat with Diane Ravitch on national standards and tests.
"Changes could raise test scores," by Matt Franck, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 17, 2005
"Missouri changes state test scoring," by Mike Sherry, Kansas City Star, January 13, 2006