No Child Left Behind?
May 22, 2003 2:12 PM   Subscribe

No Child Left Behind? States dumb down tests to avoid losing federal education funding.
posted by dogmatic (8 comments total)
...because making funding decisions based on standardized testing is a good thing, right? (Oh, it isn't? Guess that was just the rhetoric.)

...because teachers being forced to "teach to the test" doesn't bore students and make teachers disimpassioned about a job they are severely underpaid to do.

...because the tests are proven biased against minorities.

...because taking 2 weeks out the school year to fill in little bubbles with a #2 pencil is fun.

These, and many more reasons, are why some high schools will be forced to have "Future Fry-Cooks of America" groups meeting after school, and why the "No Child Left Behind Act" was a bad idea.

How about a bill that fairly distributes funds to buy new textbooks and hire new teachers? Sounds like a much better idea.
posted by benjh at 3:14 PM on May 22, 2003

Don't forget that many of the tests (see Florida, among others) were designed to be painfully arcane so that desperate school districts would have to purchase the test company's curriculum materials.

This is not conspiracy stuff -- it's not even particularly complicated. Get states to grant you gatekeeping powers over school budgets, students' fates and teachers' salaries and -- guess what? -- you'll make a mint selling those scared school districts, teachers and students your test-prep materials.

The larger fish that the powers-that-be are trying to catch here is teachers' professional status. If you can take curriculum writing out of the hands of teachers and limit them to just administering test-prep packets, you can justify slashing their salaries. Eventually teachers will join home health care workers and child care workers at the bottom of the salary pool.
posted by argybarg at 4:25 PM on May 22, 2003

Nobody has ever successfully explained to my satisfaction why we couldn't just use the damned achievement tests we took every year anyway for this mandated yearly evaluation. Why do we need to spend lots of money developing a second set of tests and arguing over thier content? Not to even mention wasting a second week of time the kids could be learning things to see whether they are learning things.
posted by ilsa at 4:36 PM on May 22, 2003

The 600-page law, Mr. Bush's basic education initiative, was passed with bipartisan backing four months after Sept. 11, 2001. Many prominent Democrats, however, have since withdrawn their support, including Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who recently described it as "a phony gimmick."

"We were all suckered into it," Mr. Gephardt said. "It's a fraud."

Really comforting that our congressmen don't know what they're voting for.
posted by MarkO at 5:57 PM on May 22, 2003

ilsa: The reason new tests are "needed" is so that students' progress can be tracked year to year as individuals, instead of comparing the children to each other. Most of the standardized tests we took while in school were scored as a percentile of all test takers. It is possible in such a situation to actually do better (get more questions right) the next time one takes the test and score lower. This is why the new tests are being developed. I assume the new tests would replace the old ones, but am unsure.

Just to be clear: As I understand NCLB, the federal government is not requiring any specific changes to be made at the schools, especially in states where things are OK. It's being put into place for the handful of states without any accountability built into their systems. The standards and tests are developed on the state level. Not that this will do much good.

I just got off the phone with a friend who teaches at a sub-par school in Arkansas (through Teach for America). He said that 97% of his school is below the math proficiency score set by the state (which is lower than the proficiency score set for special ed students in Iowa). If the school doesn't improve drastically, their federal funding is in danger of being eliminated. His point was that the funds can never realistically be cut. It's a rural district with only one school, so the students will have nowhere else to go. The state won't take the school over either, because no one from Little Rock wants to move to West Helena to be a science teacher or principal. So the "threat" posed by NCLB is a bit of a tissue tiger, at least in this instance.
posted by guidedbychris at 6:04 PM on May 22, 2003

I live in a suburban school district. The NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND law allows students at schools with low test scores/high below-poverty levels to transfer to schools with higher test scores. Low scoring schools are matched with specific transfer schools.

Last year we had a meeting with the parents, teachers, and representatives of the school district to discuss this (my child attends one of these "low scoring" Title 1 schools). I concluded that this program simply (very simply IMHO) was attempting to move low scoring students to higher scoring schools just to skew the test results.

If there were less of these lower scorers the school's overall score would naturally rise. What a joke.

Not only that, but because our school is a Title 1 school, there are some incredible programs being offered. A scientist-in-residence, lower class sizes, enrichment programs, gifted and talented programs, and dual language classes that aren't being offered at these so-called higher scoring schools. My child is staying right where she is and she's getting an incredible education.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:37 AM on May 23, 2003

Heaven forbid we should allow teachers to actually, uh, do the job they're supposed to do-- teach and evaluate students.

In the utopia I would impose if elected Evil Overlord, teachers would be given proficiency goals (e.g., mastery of long division of integers, mastery of state geography, mastery of age-appropriate reading material, mastery of simple essay format) and allowed to develop their own curricula to reach those goals-- and the power to pass or fail students who, in their estimation, have not reached those goals.

Standardized testing, as pointed out above, is just a scam to remove all responsibilities from teachers so that the role can be filled by semi-skilled labor.
posted by Cerebus at 6:41 AM on May 23, 2003

I need to edit more. That should read, ...and the power to fail students who,...

It's early and I didn't sleep well. 8P
posted by Cerebus at 6:43 AM on May 23, 2003

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