Sandy Kress, a leader in the education accountability movement, commented recently on the high priority that must be given in our country to closing the pernicious education achievement gap.
"One of the goals of accountability and No Child Left Behind," Kress said, "was to raise the achievement of white and well-to-do students while at the same time closing the achievement gap with kids of color."
Sandy Kress looks to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as the best single indicator of academic achievement trends in our country. "With the recent release of the Long Term Trend data for 2012," Kress said, "we can now contrast results from the era of accountability with those of the decade before accountability became the pervasive policy across the nation." Kress noted further, "And, now that accountability has been weakened in the past few years, we are now beginning to see the first signs of stagnation."
Sandy Kress cited the dramatic results: "For 9 and 13 year olds in math and reading, achievement gaps between whites and students of color actually grew in five areas, stayed the same in two, and narrowed in only one in the flat 90s. But in the era of strengthened accountability, 1999-2008, the gaps narrowed in seven areas, all but one, and grew in only one. And to put an exclamation point on this impressive news, white scores were the highest ever in both subjects and both ages in 2008."
According to Kress, "there is no secret to why we made this progress: we set a higher bar for all students, we measured regularly to adapt and improve instruction and applied increased resources in a more effective way, and we held the adults more accountable for the achievement of the children, especially disadvantaged students."
Sandy Kress concluded: "I worry that instead of marching forward to narrow the gap further, many have begun retreating. We see policies at both the national and state levels that would ignore the performance of many schools in closing the gap, lump subgroups together which hides gaps, lower the bar for expected results, move to infrequent independent, objective assessments, and otherwise weaken accountability."
"These backward steps are already being reflected in a flattening of results. The 2012 NAEP show it: since 2008, gaps grew in three areas, stayed the same in three, and narrowed in only two."
Sandy Kress warned: "it seems popular these days to let up on the pressure of accountability; if we soften and if we let things 'be what they will be' much as we did in the late 80s and early 90s, our children, especially the disadvantaged, will suffer, and we will all be the losers."