Although No Child Left Behind (NCLB) aims to close the achievement gap that parallels race and class, some of its key provisions are at odds with reforms that are successfully overhauling the large, comprehensive high schools that traditionally have failed students of color and low-income students in urban areas. While small, restructured schools are improving graduation and college attendance rates, NCLB accountability provisions create counterincentives that encourage higher dropout and push-out rates for low-achieving students (especially English language learners), create obstacles to staffing that allow for greater personalization, and discourage performance assessments that cultivate higher-order thinking and performance abilities. In this article, Linda Darling-Hammond proposes specific amendments to NCLB that could help achieve the goal of providing high-quality, equitable education for all students by recruiting highly qualified teachers and defining such teachers in appropriate ways; by rethinking the accountability metrics for calculating adequate yearly progress so that schools have incentives to keep students in school rather than pushing them out; and by encouraging the use of performance assessments that can motivate ambitious intellectual work.

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