The newspaper dutifully reported this week that two local elementary schools—both with a high percentage of low-income students—have been designated “persistently low-achieving schools” under No Child Left Behind, because of the standardized test scores of the students. This designation allows the schools to receive federal grant money if they take certain types of corrective action—all of them based on the assumption that there is something wrong with how the schools have been educating the kids.
The district has stated, wisely, that it will forgo the grant money, explaining that the schools are already making changes. I can’t say whether those changes are good or necessary, but I wish the district would address the federal government’s faulty logic more directly. The district, and its school board, should be shouting: This designation, and the test scores that it is based on, tell you nothing about the quality of the education at those schools. Schools and teachers aren’t to blame for the poverty in their attendance areas. That doesn’t mean the schools shouldn’t do their best with whatever kids they have—but No Child Left Behind’s labels are dishonest and its “improvement” schemes are fraudulent.