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No Child Left Behind will be recognized in time as the most colossal failure in federal education policy, whose disastrous effects were amplified by Race to the Top.
Its monomaniacal focus on test scores warped education. RTT just made it worse and left a path of destruction in urban districts.
And the gains were, as a new study reports, modest and diminished over time.
Anyone familiar with Campbell’s Law could have predicted this result. Social scientist Donald T. Campbell wrote:
“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”
Campbell also wrote:
“Achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways. (Similar biases of course surround the use of objective tests in courses or as entrance examinations.)”
Scores on NAEP rose modestly for a few years but went flat in 2015 and again in 2017.
Arne Duncan is traversing the country and TV boasting of his success and asserting that American education is built on lies. He should know. The biggest lie was NCLB. The second biggest lie was Race to the Top. The third biggest lie is ESSA.
The belief that threats and rewards will produce better education is not just a lie. It is stupid.