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Education 2011: Excellence for All

by Frederick M. Hess

Getting past the minimum-standards mentality

School reformers of all stripes have for the past decade focused manically on “closing achievement gaps” that divide students along racial and class lines. But they have given short shrift to the needs of high achievers, middle-class students, and suburban families.

The school-choice movement has been almost solely about helping the worst-served kids escape awful schools, offering nothing to the three-quarters of families who like their schools and typically bought their homes because of those schools. No Child Left Behind’s accountability metrics, which are based on students’ clearing a minimal proficiency bar in reading and math, have provided little useful information about schools in which nearly all students achieve these modest aims. And in the hands of progressives, teacher-quality reform has entailed an energetic push to move effective teachers to the neediest schools and classrooms, thus stripping middle-class families of their favorite teachers.

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