September 21, 2003

Talk of the Town on NCLB

Making The Grade, by Malcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker, issue dated Sep 15, 2003). In this Talk of the Town comment Gladwell takes on the NCLB's "Fordist vision of the classroom as a brightly lit assembly line, in which curriculum standards sail down from Washington through a chute, and fresh-scrubbed, defect-free students come bouncing out the other end". The article makes a useful point that in school ratings both the best and the worst performances are predominantly small schools, but this is presumably because small schools are more affected by statistical fluctuations. The article also points to the perverse incentives of the NCLB Act; an issue that was addressed with more care by Chester Finn in a Gadfly comment, A field guide to low academic standards, last year. Gladwell's concluding observation, that learning cannot be measured as neatly and easily as the devotees of educational productivity would like, misses the point, I think. Students can document their learning perfectly fine when applying to college, and States could make a better effort.

Posted by Bas Braams at September 21, 2003 08:49 AM