No Child Left Behind has increased the federal government’s involvement in K-12 education, but at least in its current form it keeps faith with federalism by permitting states to set their own standards and adopt their own tests. As Stephanie Banchero’s September 26 article (“Critics say scores show state’s test is watered down”) indicates, that does tempt school officials (as in Illinois) to lower the bar so that scores presented as proof of NCLB progress look stellar.
Thank goodness for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the regular survey of student knowledge that has been ongoing under an independent board since the 1970s. When its scores come out, as they did for 4th and 8th grade reading and math this week, they provide a crosscheck. When the NAEP shows far less proficiency in basic subjects than the states’ tests do, it becomes the duty of the press and other watchdogs to expose and reject the dumbing-down. The alternative to NAEP is congressionally written National Standards and Tests, which no one of sound mind should want.
Robert Holland ([email protected]) is senior fellow for education policy at The Heartland Institute.