Take away all the jargon, emotion, envy, confusion, and embarrassment
and much of the No Child Left Behind debate comes down to this: Which
schools are good, which are bad, and does NCLB do a decent job of
telling the difference?
The short answer, provided by a major new study from Fordham and the Kingsbury Center at the Northwest Evaluation Association, is no, not by a mile.
The analysis is complex and the report is long but its premise is
simple: Take a set of real schools, pretend that we can drag them across
the map and drop them down in various states, and see how many would
make "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) in each place. If the U.S. had
something akin to a shared notion of what it means to be a good or bad
school, we wouldn't see a whole lot of variation.
Yet we found nearly the opposite. In a few of the 28 states we studied (e.g, Wisconsin, Arizona), almost all of the elementary schools in our sample made AYP, while in other jurisdictions (e.g., Massachusetts, Nevada), almost none
did. Putting it bluntly, most of the...