ON-Lion Letter
Several weeks ago, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report, High Stakes for High Achievers, which recommends ways in which states could redesign their school accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in order to benefit all students, including high achievers.  

Under No Child Left Behind, schools were given incentives to focus on bringing low-performing children up to the level of proficiency, often ignoring the unique educational needs of high-potential students.  In his foreword for the new report, Fordham’s distinguished senior fellow and president emeritus Chester E. Finn, Jr., argues that while it is certainly important for schools to address the needs of struggling children, it need not be at the expense of the gifted. He reminds readers that “the country’s future economic competitiveness, scientific leadership, and national security depend on how successfully we maximize the learning of our ablest children,” adding that “our schools need to take special pains with the education of high-ability kids from disadvantaged circumstances. They too should have a chance to achieve the American Dream.”  

Fortunately, Fordham sees the potential for significant improvement under ESSA, which was passed in December of last year.  This new legislation returns greater power to the states to oversee K-12 education and requires that they design new school accountability systems. The Fordham Institute argues in its report that these systems should be constructed to “deal with the ceiling as well as the floor” by demanding strong performance and growth from high-achieving students while also addressing the needs of low-achievers.  The Fordham report outlines specific recommendations for states to adopt in designing their accountability systems, as well as rating the current and proposed systems in each state and the District of Columbia based on how well they serve gifted children.  The report was co-authored by Michael Petrilli, David Griffith, Brandon Wright, and Audrey Kim.  It may be found online here.

The Fordham Institute is a leading think tank in educational policy that focuses on advancing excellence in the nation’s schools.  It is affiliated with the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and this new report is a joint project of the Foundation and the Institute.  

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports the Fordham Institute.
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