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'Proficiency for All' -- An Oxymoron


No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requires that all students be proficient by 2014. But some policy makers think that this goal can be achievable if only schools had more time to improve. This new paper by Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen and Tamara Wilder concludes that there is no date by which all (or even nearly all) students in any subgroup can achieve the NCLB requirement of proficiency on "challenging" standards, because no goal can simultaneously be challenging to and achievable by all students across the entire achievement distribution. The authors show that even the highest scoring countries in the world cannot meet this standard, nor could they meet a standard that required only basic skills of all students. The paper concludes by showing how policy makers could formulate expectations of realistic improvement across the entire distribution of student ability.