It's tiresome because all too familiar rationales are offered to explain why some schools need improvement or "corrective action." And how does a school, like the Mount Anthony Union Middle School, need corrective action for eight - count 'em, eight years? What's been going on to correct whatever the problems are that have been identified? Whatever it has been hasn't worked well, evidently.
To be fair, it seems clear at this point, 10 years after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, widely hailed and supported across both sides of the political aisle at the time, that this is an imperfect tool by which to assess schools and educational achievement. It was always a fallacy to belief that somehow or another 100 percent of all students - regardless
Many people will disagree, but we think it should be possible to craft at least minimal national standards, so that Vermont or Massachusetts doesn't in effect penalize themselves by doing the right thing and having high standards, while other states produce "proficient" students at miserable, and globally uncompetitive, levels. If instead of trying to make everyone at least "proficient," the focus was on ensuring that students came out with a minimal package of basic skills measured by classroom performance and backed up by a test whose results were part of a student's transcript - with rewards and incentives built in for schools and individual students to go well beyond the basic levels - we might be better off.
That sounds a bit like the direction things are headed in with the impending arrival of the "Common Core" assessments on the threshold of being rolled out and already widely adopted by most states in conjunction with the federal government. If they live up to their announced mission of providing consistent academic benchmarks regardless of geography, then they may redeem the good intentions of the No Child Left Behind Act - forcing schools to be accountable - while avoiding the "one size fits all" approach that, in many cases, probably did force teachers to teach to the test, or, in some unfortunate cases, cause school officials to distort or falsify their school's results.
It's never going to be easy to measure something as intangible as academic performance. It's something you know when you see it, but it doesn't always announce itself with a loud bang; sometimes even skilled, experienced teachers don't get it on the first pass. But it exists and even if imperfectly, should be measurable, at least in the aggregate.
For better or worse, it matters more than it used to, when the U.S. dominated the global economy in a way it, or any nation, may never do again. That's assuming we still care that the national standard of living resumes rising, and that succeeding generations have the same or a better shot at a reasonably good quality of life. We're in a new era - actually not-so-new anymore - of economies being driven by knowledge. Sitting still and not worrying about whether the top 10 percent of students are being pushed and encouraged hard enough, or whether the lowest 10 percent are similarly motivated, is a lot more important than it was even a few decades ago.
Getting past the nonsense about NECAP tests and adequate yearly progress can't happen too soon.