This post was by Evelyn B. Stacey, Education Studies Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California.
The New York Times this morning highlights the dark side of No Child Left Behind-it’s failure to meet the needs of our nation’s brightest students. The Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless and Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute examined top students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card. They found “relatively little progress among our highest-achieving students (those in the top 10 percent) from 2000 to 2007, while the bottom 10 percent made phenomenal gains.” With a closer look at eighth-grade math-“the lowest-achieving students made 13 points of progress on the national-assessment scale from 2000 to 2007 – roughly the equivalent of a whole grade. Top students, however, gained just five points.” More education options for top-performing students as well as students struggling in failing schools would introduce powerful pressure for all schools to do better. “Just as more incentives are needed within our schools, greater competition is needed among our schools,” said President Reagan in his 1983 State of the Union address. “Without standards and competition, there can be no champions, no records broken, no excellence in education or any other walk of life.” So far, we have great standards-on paper. It’s high time for more choice and competition in schooling to make achieving those standards a reality.