NCLB II Policy and Politics

Writing in Newsday Jay Greene argues in favor of President Bush’s proposal to expand No Child Left Behind to include testing at the high school level. Greene is basically right that increased accountability produces some benefits, as Martin Carnoy told The New York Times “There’s some probability I would be wrong. But if I were to put my money on something right now, I would try [accountability].”

Still, the President’s proposal raises two eduissues. First, as a practical matter testing companies are about stretched to their limit in terms of their capacity to deliver exams to states, minimize errors, and yes, make any money. The money point matters because a race to the bottom on test quality is not a desirable outcome. No Child Left Behind increased the amount of testing around the country (though it did also thankfully displace some existing testing). While the 3-8 testing is shaking out, is it really wise to lay more pressure on the system to produce more tests (and at the high school level more complicated tests)?

Second, this proposal is basically what passes for a “big idea” on education for the Bush second-term. Eduwonk can’t help but wonder if the persistent inability of too many Democrats to say very much interesting about education, beyond opposing various ideas and demanding more money hasn’t lowered the bar so much for Republicans that even lame, small, or ill-considered ideas take on an outsized veneer of importance. You know, a lot of the Bush education ideas were pilfered from Democrats, even back in Texas. Perhaps now, if the Bush well is indeed running dry, is a good time for Democrats to pounce with some new ideas of their own?

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