Smart Children are Left Behind, But So Are Artistic Children

A week ago Tom Loveless and Michael J. Petrilli had an Op-Ed article ran in the New York Times called “Smart Child Left Behind“.  In it, they make the case that high-achieving students are left out of the equation when it comes to academic gains as demanded by the No Child Left Behind Act.

First, under the federal law, state tests are supposed to measure whether students are meeting grade-level expectations — whether the average third grader knows the mathematics taught through third grade. But high achievers usually work above grade level, so the state tests are very poor instruments for measuring how well top students are learning.

Second, the way the study’s analysts depicted state trends creates a misleading national picture. They calculated “trend lines” in each state — for example, whether more fourth graders in Georgia reached the “advanced” level in math, whether they made gains in reading and so on for each grade and subject.

It’s a fairly compelling case to make that the structure of testing limits our measuring capabilities for the progress of advanced students. As Mr Petrilli says, how can we measure to progress of gifted students when the bar we are measuring them with is meant for an average student?  This isn’t the only problem with the testing mandated by No Child Left Behing.

I have railed before, the testing doesn’t even cover all liberal arts subjects.  Music and the visual arts are things that can’t be tested (and don’t necessarily need to be) but are critical to the development of students. So as schools continue to scale back their arts programs to meet ever increasing demands for progress by The Act, we get students with a less diverse foundation of knowledge.  I don’t need to go through why cuts in arts programs are bad (you can read my previous post for that), but what frustrates me about this Op-Ed is that the discussion is entirely limited to people who over-achieve in the areas that are narrowly focused on by the No Child Left Behind Act.

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