This isn't really what Dick Lilly over at Crosscut said but it's what went thru my mind reading his recent article. Here's his premise about "closing the achievement gap":
Among the results of this frustratingly persistent problem is a vast, energetic industry of school reform, headlined in recent years by the involvement of powerful private foundations and the policy directives of the federal government: “No Child Left Behind” in the “Race to the Top.”
Over the years, a variety of structural changes have been proposed and, to one degree or another, tried: small schools, mayoral governance, charter schools, (more) intensive professional development for teachers, (more) leadership training for principals. Testing and more testing, along with the loss of federal funds and wholesale staff changes when schools have failed to improve scores (many states dumbed down their tests to avoid the consequences). And lately, paying teachers based on student test results, along with (more) federal money for states and school districts that promise to do a few favored things from these lists.
As for results, not much has changed.
What needs to change?
What we have is a system in which the progress of an individual child is actually unimportant. (Teachers, bless them, do not view it this way, but beyond the classroom door the system’s focus on averages takes over.)
What’s missing is a real standard — for example, the standard that EACH child will read at grade level by the end of third grade. For EACH child, a school or district should have to answer the question, “Can s/he read?” If for some the answer remains “no,” then the school and district and state have failed. You can’t hide that failure in averages.
It’s ironic, but to “close the achievement gap” we have to stop measuring and praising group gains. Schools have to focus on and deliver services — specifically reading instruction — to each individual child. K-12 educators need to measure not averages, but how many children at each grade level are actually proficient readers. And each child who is not proficient must get additional instruction sufficient to bring them up to grade level.
Read the whole thing but bravo Dick Lilly.