I just read in the newspaper a couple of days ago about how the gap between the rich and poor is widening. Not only is it widening, but the rate at which it is widening has been increasing and is expected to become much greater in the next few years. The United States has one of the largest income disparities of any industrialized nation.
George Bush in his so called “No Child Left Behind” Act insists that schools close the test score gap between rich and poor students, and between the ethnic majority and the ethnic minorities in our schools. While this act does nothing to close the funding gap between rich and poor schools (also the greatest of any industrialized nation), it places severe penalties on states, districts, schools and students who fail to meet its goals.
I propose that we should enact a “No Family Left Behind Act.” In this act, states that did not make continues progress in closing the income gap would be sanctioned. Not only the income gap, but the access to health care gap, the infant mortally gap and the incarceration gaps should all be closed as well (and again we lead the industrialized world in most of these gaps as well—nothing like being number 1!). The states should also have to show progress in closing the gaps in all of these areas. As in NCLB, no excuses should be accepted.
Despite years of NCLB sanctions there has been no progress in closing the achievement gap between the rich and poor, minority and White students. Yet there is strong evidence that closing these other gaps would in fact help close the educational achievement gap. Educational research has shown again and again that the strongest predictor of educational success on virtually every measure is socioeconomic-status.
So why stop (or even start) with just closing the gap in test scores? Let’s close the gaps that really matter!