Education reform in the United States typically focuses on the neediest students — those who tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who struggle academically. In the No Child Left Behind era, low-performing schools were penalized if they didn't show that the proportion of proficient students grew over time.
But some critics of No Child Left Behind — and there were many — claimed that by prioritizing low-achieving students, schools ignored those who were already proficient — who performed at grade level or above. These critics wondered, could high-performing students meet their potential with teachers who were focused on teaching to the bottom?
In 2015, No Child Left Behind was replaced by a new bill called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The new version of the law gives states more authority over their school accountability systems. For this week's podcast, I spoke with Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He and his colleagues published a report called "High Stakes for High Achievers: State Accountability in the Age of ESSA." Petrilli says states have an opportunity now to create more sophisticated systems of accountability — systems that don't just reward states for helping struggling students improve, but for helping all levels of students succeed.