Blog: The Educated Reporter

Dueling Over Demographic Achievement Goals

Should states set different education proficiency goals for different demographic groups? Andrew “Eduwonk” Rotherham and Michael “Education Gadfly” Petrilli are at odds over a plan in Virginia that set achievement targets for various subgroups.

There is controversy over the state’s 2017 aspirations for its demographic groups: white and Asian students will have proficiency targets of 78 and 89 percent, respectively, but the expectations for blacks (57 percent), Hispanics (65 percent) and low-income students (59 percent) are lower. The goal, in part, is to narrow the achievement gap between white and black students by 2 percentage points over a five-year period.

To Rotherham, Virginia is overcompensating for the one-size-fits-all prescription of No Child Left Behind, arguing in the Washington Post:

Because Congress is years behind schedule in updating the No Child law, some provisions are showing their age and revisions to the accountability rules are long overdue. Virginia’s new policy, however, is a step backward, not an improvement. It sends a debilitating message to students, parents and educators because there is no way around the fact that the commonwealth is codifying different expectations for various groups of students.

He wrote more in a follow up piece.

Petrilli sees it differently, suggesting goals should be achievable, since doing so serves to boost teacher morale.

(See our Story Starter on No Child Left Behind/ESEA)

Virginia education authorities have made assurances they’ll raise the state’s expectations for under-performing subgroups anyway, striking an agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Education to augment its annual measurable objectives—wonkspeak for the achievement goals.

If No Child Left Behind taught us one hundred percent proficiency by a fixed date is virtually impossible, what are the appropriate benchmarks necessary to ensure schools and districts are doing right by their students?

Photo source: Beatrice Barton