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A Better Education For Poor Kids, Or An Ideal One?

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I still haven't read Linda Perlstein's new book, Tested, but USA Today's Greg Toppo has, and he asks Perlstein a few questions here ('Tested' examines difficult choices). In the interview, Perlstein decries the current school environment, in which there is "one world where students pass the test as a matter of course and get to write poems, and another where children write paragraphs about poems." But she doesn't really explain why a rudimentary education is such a bad thing, compared to not being able to read and write. This is the fundamental question for those judging NCLB: do we compare it to the ideal education, or the education that really existed in schools before NCLB came along? And Perlstein doesn't think there are many counter-examples of schools with a rich, creative curriculum, though my understanding is that there are (see the USA Today editorial on this from last week). So I'm not sure I'm going to like or agree with Tested, but that doesn't mean you won't.

UPDATE: This guy doesn't like the sound of the book at all.

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I've read "Tested" and wrote about it on my blog here and on Britannica blog here. I think it's a good inside-the-classroom look at the trade-offs of teaching to the test. Students learn basic reading and math skills which weren't being mastered before the elementary school focused on raising its test scores. On the other hand, students don't do real writing or study history or science till after the state exam in March.

After two years of excellent scores, the principal and teachers started working on balancing the curriculum and being less test-driven. Scores went down in some categories the following year; only third-grade math went down significantly.

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