Smart kids left behind?
It's been a common refrain for years: School accountability systems like the federal No Child Left Behind Act and Florida's FCAT-based school grading system are "dummying down" education by putting too much emphasis on struggling students, leaving "average" and top-tier students to stagnate from neglect. But is that really what's happening?
A national report released this morning offers a complicated answer. About two in five students who began as "high flyers" had dropped from the top tier four years later, according to the report from the Fordham Institute. Not good. At the same time, the number of top-tier students grew over that period because more "late bloomers" climbed into the upper echelon. Not bad.
The study also found, though, that low-achieving students were making twice the gains in reading as high-achievers. And that most of the movement into the top tier was from students who were above average.
"What we’re not seeing is students scrape and claw their way into the high-achieving ranks from the 20th, 30th, even 40th or 50th percentiles," the report says. "Instead, students come in and out of the top decile but basically stay within the top third of students. These are our high-achieving “bubble kids,” standing between academic fit and stretch; between sufficient and life-changing opportunities; between adequate and stellar futures. No, these aren’t the kids that education-reform outfits fuss about ... But they deserve attention, too."
(Image from leechamberlain.org.)