Standardized tests: Are standardized tests a good approach to no-child left behind?
NCLB's systematic testing helps reveal failing teaching methods so that they can be changed: 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.
"Scientifically based research standards" for judging student improvement are too narrow and exclusive of other effective ways of judging progress: 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>
Teachers have an incentive to focus on teaching to students that are just below a passing grade. 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.
Testing acts as a smoke screen for bigger education problems.
No Child Left Behind's standardized tests assume that all children progress at the same pace, when this is not the case.
Learning: Does it lead to improved learning in its broadest sense?
Statewide standards better allow moving students to pick up where they left off in 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.
NCLB links State academic content standards with student outcomes:
Measures student performance: a student's progress in reading and math must be measured annually in grades 3 through 8 and at least once during high school via standardized tests.
Increases the quality of education by decreasing the quantity. Schools are required to improve their performance under NCLB by implementing "scientifically based research" practices in the classroom, parent involvement programs, and professional development activities for those students that are not encouraged or expected to attend college.
Supports early literacy through the Early Reading First initiative.
Emphasizes reading, writing, math and science achievement through a number of "core academic subjects" that include subjects as diverse as algebra and art.
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.
Teacher accountability: Does NCLB make teachers and schools more accountable?
Most teachers will not cheat the system, and will thus be held more accountable for student improvement:
NCLB encourages accountability in public schools: NCLB aims to show achievement toward these goals through federally mandated standardized testing.
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.
NCLB's punitive measures against teachers are excessive and counter-productive.
Some students may not be able to pass, no matter how good their teacher is: 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.
Teachers have an incentive to adjust scores and statistics:
Teachers are fine with being accountable, but 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: Are NCLB's provisions offering alternate school choice to students in failing schools a good thing?
NCLB gives students the option to enroll in schools failing to meet AYP: If a school fails to meet AYP targets two or more years running, the school must offer eligible children the chance to transfer to higher-performing local schools, receive free tutoring, or attend after-school programs.
This could just make failing schools worse:
Migrations of students away from certain schools could cause school closures and strains on the financial system:
Succeeding children, not failing children, are actually the ones choosing to leave "failing" schools: 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.
Parents: Does NCLB offer parents what they are looking for for their kids as well as make parents more accountable?
Establishes the foundation for schools and school districts to significantly enhance parental involvement and improved 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.
State and local control: Does NCLB justly create a nation-wide system, or does this unfairly erode state and local control over education?
National standardization of education prevents cross-border variation. What happens when a student crosses state lines and goes to another school? Should they be subject to an entirely different educational system and approach? This would be disruptive and unfair.
There is no reason why education shouldn't be standardized nationally. Educational approaches are not a subject of cultural or values variation across state boundaries. This is a typical reason for state authority. Education, rather, is something that can be approached from a broader, holistic, even global perspective, set of values, and well tested approaches. As such, the federal government is more suited for controlling education standards across the states.
NCLB erodes state and local control of the education of their children: Some conservative or libertarian critics have argued that NCLB sets a new standard for federalizing education and setting a precedent for further erosion of state and local control. Libertarians and some conservatives further argue that the federal government has no constitutional authority in education, which is why participation in NCLB is technically optional: States need not comply with NCLB so long as they also refuse federal funding for their schools.<ref>Holland, R. (2004) Critics are many, but law has solid public support. School Reform News. March 1, 2004. The Heartland Institute. Retrieved 6/7/07.</ref>
Military recruiting: Is it appropriate for NCLB to require that the information of students be provided to the military?
Facilitating military recruitment through NCLB is wrong:
NCLB (In section 9528) requires public secondary schools to provide military recruiters the same access to facilities as a school provides to higher education institution recruiters. Schools are also required to provide contact information for every student to the military if requested, and schools are not required to tell the students or parents. Students or parents can opt out of having their information shared.<ref>(nd) SEC. 9528. ARMED FORCES RECRUITER ACCESS TO STUDENTS AND STUDENT RECRUITING INFORMATION. Department of Education. Retrieved 6/7/07.</ref> <ref>(nd) Military Free Zone. website. Retrieved 6/7/07.</ref> Currently, many school districts have a generic opt out form which, if filled out and turned in, withholds students' information from college and job recruiters as well as the military.
Culture and race: Does No Child Left behind suffer from cultural biases and create disadvantages for ethnic students?
Attention to minority populations:
Seeks to narrow class and racial gaps in school performance by creating common expectations for all.
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:
State refusal to produce non-English assessments 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). The vast majority of English language learners are given English language assessments.<ref>Crawford, J. (nd) [http://www.nabe.org/documents/policy_legislation/NABE_on_NCLB.pdf No Child Left Behind:
Misguided Approach to School Accountability for English Language Learners]. National Association for Bilingual Education. Retrieved 6/7/07.</ref>
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."
Public perception of public education:
Addresses widespread perceptions that public education results fall short of expectations.
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