So what else is new?? Isn't this just the statistic that confirms the message of Nation at Risk or the flat NAEP scores for the last forty years?

The troubling?part of Arne Duncan's Capitol Hill testimony yesterday?is that he concludes from the dismal statistics ? that 80,000 of our 100,000 public schools are failing ? that it's the law's fault. ?This law is fundamentally broken, and we need to fix it this year,? he told the House education committee. We all know what ?this law? means: No Child Left Behind.

Harping about NCLB's tough love approach to school improvement has dogged the revolutionary bill almost from the beginning ? I say almost because it was at first hailed as a masterstroke of nonpartisanship. Under intense pushback from teachers and their unions, however that coalition quickly splintered along predictable partisan lines. Then came a host of nitpicking, from left and right, that has made the NCLB brand poisonous.? ???

The huge law no doubt has flaws. Liam says that ?a seminal problem? with it is ?its focus on race,? the infamous subgroup standard that has sent many schools to the proficiency woodshed. President Obama says we need to replace NCLB with ?a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.?? Mike says??NCLB has done ?some good,? mostly for poor and minority students, but has had some ?unintended consequences,? including too much testing in too few subjects.? But the major benefit of NCLB -- and the reason it should not be gutted -- is that it has forced the country to face the facts that Duncan highlighted.?

The big question as the administration pushes ESEA reauthorization forward is whether we close our eyes to the facts yet again. What will happen to accountability?? As effective as Race to the Top has been in wooing states to make long awaited reforms,?there's nothing there to punish those who quit?the race. ?The danger going forward is that the demand for ?flexibility? will send us back to the future, where we adjust the goal line to suit the weakest players rather than bulk those players up with a good diet of rigorous, comprehensive, written, taught, and tested curricula.? Carrots are great, but what if you don't like them??I suggest a new way forward, with a mission statement something like,??Eat your carrots or you'll have to stay after school.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

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