Nomadic blogger Matt Yglesias weighs-in on this ongoing achievement gap debate between Kevin Carey and the AFTies (if you’re inclined links to walk back here). Matt makes an interesting point about the dynamic nature of the achievement gap, namely that affluent parents are always going to seek out advantages for their kids. That’s true and in a liberal society hard, and I’d argue unwise, to curtail. But that’s not what No Child Left Behind is about. In the NCLB gap closing context gap closing means eliminating racial and economic gaps in the percentages of students scoring “proficient” on their state tests. Considering the nature of these tests, which should be floors rather than ceilings, this can be done regardless of what affluent parents do.
Also worth noting that while there are many out-of-school factors that bear on the gaps we see on tests, outcomes, etc…it’s important not to forget that the way schools are organized, financed, and so forth today means that once students enter the public system they encounter an environment that compounds those gaps rather than addressing them. A quick spin around the Ed Trust website will give you plenty of examples about that in terms of teacher quality, curriculum, and money.
Update: Matt responds, and there isn’t a huge disagreement here and again the prospect of a robust center-left/left/center-right coalition to really address social and educational reform rears its head. But in terms of No Child the semantics do matter because understanding what the policy of NCLB is intended to do is key to a reasonable decision about the law’s merits. And all kinds of things are being ascribed to it that it’s not intended to do.