. . . or improving NCLB?

Instead of riddling NCLB with state-specific loopholes, it would make infinitely more sense to acknowledge that that important statute needs a handful of carefully designed reforms. And then enact those reforms. But what would they be? Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby makes a brilliant start on the process in this week's Wall Street Journal when she provides solutions to quirks in how adequate yearly progress is calculated. Her fine piece is based on her chapter in a newly released Koret Task Force volume (edited by John Chubb) titled Within Our Reach (see http://www-hoover.stanford.edu/pubaffairs/releases/2005/03chubb.html). The book itself bears attention, too. Hoxby lays out three core principles of AYP, then proposes a number of reforms in how it is measured: benchmark proficiency levels to NAEP; use conventional statistical forecasting techniques to judge whether a school is on track to meeting NCLB's requirements (which amounts to a back-door value-added component); and assign the minimum score to students who miss state tests, a cleaner and less arbitrary way of penalizing schools that encourage low-scorers to be "sick" on testing day than the current 95 percent participation rate requirement. She also proposes that the federal government name names when it comes to states that have set absurdly lenient proficiency standards - and reward states that have held themselves to high standards by giving them extra time beyond 2014 to meet their goals. All in all, Hoxby's reforms amount to a good-faith effort to make NCLB work the way Congress intended. We much prefer this approach to the state-specific flexibility described in the item above.
"The measure of progress," by Caroline M. Hoxby, Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2005 (subscription required)