Standardized tests: Are standardized tests a good approach to no-child left behind?
Standardized testing sets baseline achievement standards. It is important that a nation has a general frame of reference on where students should, on average, be at various stages of their educational development. Standardized testing helps do this by setting a baseline level of achievement at each grade. While some students may perform above or below this standard, the important thing is judging the general educational trends across American society, so that we can help guide our national educational system onto a globally competitive path.
NCLB testing helps reveal and change failing teaching methods: The focus of this all is to provide a clear indication of what is causing the achievement gap, with disadvantaged and disabled students at the losing end.
Statewide standards are an improvement over major local failures: Local failures have necessitated federal intervention to remedy issues like teachers teaching outside their areas of expertise, and complacency in the face of continually failing schools. Some local governments, notably New York State, have voiced support for NCLB provisions, arguing that local standards had failed to provide adequate oversight over special education, and that NCLB would allow longitudinal data to be more effectively used to monitor Adequate Yearly Progress, also known as AYP.
Standardized tests poorly measure real student learning Some school districts object to the limitation created by the "scientifically based research standard." Research based on case studies, anecdotes, personal experience, or other forms of qualitative research are generally excluded from this category. Furthermore, the inability to employ random assignment for important educational predictors such as race and socio-economic status may exclude a large amount of quasi-experimental work that could contribute to educational knowledge.<ref>Beghetto, R. (2003) Scientifically Based Research. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Retrieved 6/7/07.</ref>
NCLB gets teachers to over-focus on those just below passing Because No Child Left Behind makes passing tests such a central priority, teachers don't have much of an incentive to spend time helping those that are already likely to pass nor those that are highly unlikely to pass (it would be wasted energy). The greatest bang-for-the-buck for teachers on threat from NCLB penalties is to focus on students that are just below the passing grade. But, this is misguided, as every child should be given equal attention to grow regardless of their abilities.
No Child Left Behind motivates teachers to cheat. When teacher accountability is based on test scores, teachers are often motivated to cheat, by modifying student standardized tests so that more pass. This does not help the students and teachers should not be put in this position.
No Child Left Behind testing wrongly assumes all children are the same. Any system of standardized testing (in order to pass a class) assumes that all students progress at the same rate. But this is not the case. Talented students and un-talented students should not be measured by the same standardized test.
NCLB should judge individual students on their yearly progress."Commentary: No Child Left Behind needs revision". McClatchy. December 11, 2008 - "schools should be judged on whether each child progresses from one year to the next, which is called a 'growth model.' It asks, did the child's knowledge and skills grow at least one year's worth? Are children who are behind getting enough attention to help them catch up? Those are the important questions, not whether this third grade scores better than the previous year's third-grade class [under no child left behind]."
Learning: Does it lead to improved learning in its broadest sense?
Standards enables students to integrate well into new schools. The establishment of statewide standards, instead of city or neighborhood curricula, also benefits students who move between neighboring communities by increasing the odds that lessons learned in one school will generally line up sensibly with lessons taught at the new school.
No Child Left Behind offers valuable measure of student progress No Child Left Behind allows teachers to judge the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their methods on their class and with individual students. English Teacher Stephanie Butler said, for instance, "Assessment drives instruction. If I don't know the weaknesses of my students, how can I know how to best help them? [...] I think the statistics need to drive remedies."
NCLB ensures disabled students are not left behindBill Byrne. "No Child Left Behind — Really? Why I like this law." - "The fact is that in many, many public schools, kids with disabilities are not learning to read and do math — while the vast majority of them can master these skills with proper instruction. [...] No Child Left Behind will short-circuit all of the excuses and explanations. School systems that do a good job with children with disabilities will show their progress, and those that fail to do a good job will have their ineffectiveness exposed. Then parents and voters can make informed decisions about how to get the underachievers on track."
No Child Left Behind funds faith-based orgs for supplemental education.No Child Left Behind and Faith-Based Leaders. United States Department of Education. Retrieved February 18, 2009 - "Faith-based organizations can receive funds to provide tutoring and other academic enrichment services for eligible low-income students. Religious organizations can become supplemental educational services providers by applying to states and then working with districts to provide services directly to students in reading, language arts and mathematics. Many faith-based organizations are already providing these services in innercity and rural communities across the country, where assistance is needed most. Faith-based organizations often find it useful to establish their program as a not-for-profit (501c3) to receive funds."
NCLB encountered some problems mainly because it lacked proper funding. No Child Left Behind had some significant problems when it was first implemented under the Bush administration. But this had much more to do with insufficient funding than with any inadequacies of the program itself. Barack Obama recognized as much in the following remark: "I'll tell you what's wrong with No Child Left Behind. Forcing our teachers, our principals and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong. Promising high-quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and the pay for those teachers behind is wrong. Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing your hands up and walking away from them the next is wrong. [...] We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind. We must provide the funding we were promised, give our states the resources they need and finally meet our commitment to special education."
The quality of education can't be determined by testing alone: Standardized testing often tests only a very limited range of skills rather than the broad range of skills we would hope our educational system is providing. Standardized testing focuses largely on memorization, speed of recall, and critical thinking. Yet, a full education entails much more, including creativity, emotional insight, composure and dignity, physical health and an understanding of nutrition, and many other basic human values.
Robert Lynch. "No Child Left Behind Act wrongly left the arts behind". The Hill. March 12, 2007 - "[Congress] should correct the legislation’s unintended consequences, which include reducing the amount of arts education in our nation’s schools. [...] it also requires schools to report student achievement test results for only two subjects: reading and math. With the emphasis on just those two, the arts have suffered. [...] A recent national study of the Act’s impact by the Council on Education Policy reveals that a majority of school leaders saw gains in achievement, but 71 percent reported having reduced instructional time in at least one other subject to make more time for reading and math. Since the passage of NCLB, 22 percent of elementary school leaders surveyed reported a decline in their art and music instruction."
No-Child-Left-Behind detracts from the education of the gifted. When the focus of the educational system and teachers is on the standardized average, this detracts from the education of those at the low and high end of educational achievement. The gifted will not be taught to their full potential as a result. This has consequences not simply for these students, but for society as a whole, which depends disproportionately on the cultivation of the best and brightest into tomorrow's leaders.
Teacher accountability: Does NCLB make teachers and schools more accountable?
Most teachers are honest and will not cheat the system under NCLB. Teachers will probably not cheat the system, simply out of respect for themselves, their profession, and their students. The system should not, therefore, cave to a minority of teachers that decide to violate the rules. Instead, measures should be taken to ensure that teachers do not cheat and that cheating teachers are caught.
NCLB has safeguards for schools that are failing despite proficiency. Gives school districts the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency, even for subgroups that do not meet State Minimum Achievement standards, through a process called "safe harbor," a precursor to growth-based or value-added assessments.
No Child Left Behind helps draw, keep, and motivate good teachers."Fact Sheet on the Major Provisions of the Conference Report to H.R. 1, the No Child Left Behind Act". United States Department of Education - "Strengthening Teacher Quality [...] H.R. 1 asks states to put a highly-qualified teacher in every public school classroom by 2005. The bill also makes it easier for local schools to recruit and retain excellent teachers. [...] H.R. 1 will consolidate smaller programs within the US Department of Education. The bill also creates a new Teacher Quality Program that allows greater flexibility for local school districts. [...] In addition to specific funds for teacher quality, H.R. 1 will also give local schools new freedom to make spending decisions with up to 50 percent of the non-Title I federal funds they receive. With this new freedom, a local school district can use additional funds for hiring new teachers, increasing teacher pay, improving teacher training and development or other uses."
Teachers are not necessarily to blame for poor student performance. Critics of the NCLB requirement for "one high, challenging standard" claim that some students are simply unable to perform at the level for their age, no matter how good the teacher is.<ref>EdAccountability.org website.</ref> While statewide standards reduce the educational inequality between privileged and underprivileged districts in a state, they still impose a "one size fits all" standard on individual students. Particularly in states with high standards, schools can be punished for not being able to dramatically raise the achievement of a student who has below-average capabilities.
No Child Left Behind does nothing to improve teachers.Alfie Kohn. "NCLB: 'Too Destructive To Salvage'". Common Dreams. May 31, 2007 - "according to a recent 50-state survey by Teachers Network, a non-profit education organization, exactly 3% of teachers think NCLB helps them to teach more effectively. No wonder 129 education and civil rights organizations have endorsed a letter to Congress deploring the law's overemphasis on standardized testing and punitive sanctions. No wonder 30,000 people (so far) have signed a petition at educatorroundtable.org calling the law 'too destructive to salvage.'"
NCLB counter-productively punishes teachers/schools Punishing teachers for the poor performance of students fails to address the main issue; how to better or differently instruct students. Teachers already have the best interests of their students at heart. Punishing them assumes that this is not the case, or that teachers cannot simply recognize the need to improve their methods if things are not going well.
Teachers want to be held accountable, just not to tests. While accountability is often considered important among teachers, it is important to consider what teachers are being held accountable for. Many teachers feel they should be held accountable for a more holistic teaching approach, opposed to the kind of test-centric teaching NCLB requires.
School choice: Does NCLB offer better choice of schools to students and parents?
No Child Left Behind encourages parents to engage more actively No Child Left Behind establishes the foundation for schools and school districts to significantly enhance parental involvement and improve administration through the use of the assessment data to drive decisions on instruction, curriculum and business practices. Provides school history information. Provides information for parents by requiring states and school districts to give parents detailed report cards on schools and districts explaining the school's AYP performance. Notifies parents of schools that do not meet standards, giving them a way to weigh alternative school options. Schools must also inform parents when their child is being taught by a teacher or para-professional who does not meet "highly qualified" requirements.
School choice in NCLB will make bad schools worse. When students and parents have the choice to leave bad schools, they will often choose to do so. This will lower the talent pool in bad schools, making them into simply the backwaters for under-performing and mischievous students, which will further undermine these schools and student performance in a vicious cycle.
Good not "failing" students students will leave under NCLB. No Child Left Behind is intended to provide resources to students that are "failing" to leave and be transported to other schools, where they may be more successful. Yet, the "succeeding" children in these "failing" schools are actually the ones utilizing the funding to go to other schools, making this a mis-allocation and use of funding.
State and local: Does NCLB appropriately distribute control to states?
No Child Left Behind encourages states to lower standards.Ryan, J. "The Perverse Incentives of No Child Left Behind Act." July 2, 2004 - "the Act unintentionally encourages states to lower their academic standards. [...] The requirement that an increasing percentage of students in every school achieve a certain test score each year is arbitrary and unrealistic, in that it establishes achievement goals without any reference to past achievement levels or rates of achievement growth. Many schools, including some that are considered effective, will be unable to meet these achievement targets. This will create pressure to make the targets easier to meet by dumbing down the tests or making scoring systems more generous. By this process, a law intended to raise academic standards may lower them."
Bias: Is NCLB unbiased and equal toward all ethic and economic groups?
NCLB helps narrow the achievement gap for minorities. NCLB seeks to narrow class and racial gaps in school performance by creating common expectations for all. It also requires schools and districts to focus their attention on the academic achievement of traditionally under-served groups of children, such as low-income students, students with disabilities, and African Americans and Latinos. Many previous state-created systems of accountability only measured average school performance, allowing schools to be highly rated even if they had large achievement gaps between affluent and disadvantaged students.
Standardized tests may have cultural biases. Standardized tests are written largely by white men and women, with a certain unintentional bias toward these ethnic groups, putting minorities at a slight disadvantage.
No Child Left Behind lacks non-English tests. Students who are learning English have an automatic three-year-long window to take assessments in their native language, after which they must generally demonstrate proficiency on an English language assessment. The local education authority may grant any student another two years' testing in his native language on a case-by-case basis. In practice, however, only 10 states choose to test any students in their native language (almost entirely Spanish speakers).
Religious tutors: Is it appropriate that religious tutors receive state funding under NCLB?
NCLB violates the separation of church and state by allowing "faith-based" groups to serve as private tutors with public money: The US Department of Education's website says: "No Child Left Behind provides opportunities for faith-based organizations to assist in educating children."
There is strong public support for No Child Left Behind."Critics are many, but law has solid public support". School Reform News. March 2004 - "Solid Public Support. Bush and NCLB supporters on Capitol Hill also pointed to evidence of public support for NCLB standards and accountability. A national survey conducted in early January for Americans for Better Education by The Winston Group found a solid majority of Americans view NCLB favorably, with support highest among African-Americans and parents of children in public schools. [...] More than 100 black and Latino school officials signed a letter to Congress condemning calls to repeal NCLB’s accountability requirements, asserting the naysayers would “turn back the clock to a time when schools--particularly in suburban communities--could coast comfortably on the performance of a handful of high-performing students and hide serious problems behind misleading averages."