America's Perfect Storm

Various authors, Educational Testing Service, Feb 16, 2007
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The release of the NCLB report in the United States has prompted many to consider the relation between learning and prosperity. The Public Education Network applauds the report as a "first step" but calls for more resources. The Annenburg Institute, though, asks "what is proficiency?" As Robert Rothman notes, "NCLB leaves the definition of proficiency up to each state - and states have defined it in widely varying ways." One wonders about the advantage of such confusion.

The bottom line on NCLB, though, seems to be this: no change. Despite the focus on education, despite the focus on reform, despite the focus on standards and testing, achievement rates remain flat and the socio-economic gap remains. Anyon and Greene argue, "the Act does function as a substitute for the creation of decently paying jobs for those who need them." And not a very good substitute.

The Educational Testing Service reports: * substantial disparities in skill levels (reading and math) * seismic economic changes (widening wage gaps) * sweeping demographic shifts (less education, lower skills). And it seems to me that what we are seeing is one attempt at education reform after another as a substitute for addressing the persistent and pervasive problem standing in the way of achievement in society: the ever widening gap in socio-economic status and opportunity. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
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