We sometimes entertain foreign guests on the 13th Floor, local officials from other countries who are touring our country courtesy of the State Department. Yesterday, I met with an official from Poland who was mainly interested in education policy.

He asked me about the No Child Left Behind law and I outlined the standard critiques of it from the state and district perspective.

How it has enough congressional critics on both the right and left that it won't be reauthorized this year (or probably next). How it's mostly punitive rather than helpful when schools or districts fail to make the grade. How its system of measuring progress by comparing this year's 3rd graders to last year's isn't all that helpful in terms of improving classroom instruction. How results of the tests come back too late to do more than perform an "autopsy" on the performance of students who have since moved on to the next grade.

You know, the standard drill.

He said, "It's funny. We just met with a woman in the federal Department of Education. She said everything the opposite of what you say."

I'll have a feature in Governing's September issue looking at how some districts have risen to the NCLB challenge and are not just collecting data but actually using them in ways that help individual students.