To Close the Achievement Gap, We Need to Close the Teaching Gap Linda Darling-Hammond: For years now, educators have looked to international tests as a yardstick to measure how well U.S. students are learning 21st-century skills compared to their peers. The answer has been: not so well. The U.S. has been falling further behind other nations and has struggled with a large achievement gap.
Federal policy under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Department of Education's 'flexibility' waivers has sought to address this problem by beefing up testing policies -- requiring more tests and upping the consequences for poor results: including denying diplomas to students, firing teachers, and closing schools. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn't worked. In fact, U.S. performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) declined in every subject area between 2000 and 2012 -- the years in which these policies have been in effect.