The No Child Left Behind Act.... Leaving Kids Behind Since 2002
What is a Standardized Test?
A standardized test is a test that must meet state mandated standards. These tests usually consisting of multiple choice answers, and are timed. Typically a machine is used to grade each test. If there are questions that cannot be graded by a machine, such as essay questions, the person who grades the test is supposed to be trained to grade the papers using a grading rubrics and predetermined standards. In the same way, the person who administers the test is expected to go through specialized training, as well (Yao, 2007).
Standardized tests are scored using Norm reference, Criterion reference, or both. Norm Reference is where a control group’s test scores are considered the “norm” each student’s test scores are then compared to the control groups “norm” scores. The student is then given a percentage as a score, for example, the 70th percentile would mean that the student did better than 70% of students in the control group (Yao, 2007). The Criterion score is scored by how many questions that the student answered correctly in each subject. These scores would come back as excellent for many right answers, all the way down to basic with only a few correct answers (Yao, 2006). These tests are now used on a national Basis thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act.
What is the No Child Left Behind Act?
In 2002, George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This act takes a previous act which is called Elementary and Secondary Education Act or (ESEA) and completely rewrites it. ESEA was created in 1965 and was used to support schools that had a large number of students living in poverty. However, the NCLBA takes away the funding from underprivileged schools and makes each school “earn” their funding by maintaining high scores on standardized tests. According to Applequist, (2006), “Under NCLB, schools are required to demonstrate adequate yearly progress toward academic proficiency goals established by each state, with an emphasis on math, reading, and science” (p.1).
What is wrong with the No Child Left Behind Act?
Fueled by a report titled: A Nation at Risk, increased pressure was put on the country, quickly to improve the education system. Supporters of this plan will argue that this law helps guarantee that our nation will not continue to fall behind due to lack of proper education. When finished with this article one cannot help but notice that due to the pressure put on teachers, students, and administration alike this law is not an accurate portrayal of how well children are doing in school.
One of the major problems with this plan is that schools are supposed to test all students using standardized testing, even children with disabilities or developmental problems. In grading or administering these tests, each school is only allowed to use different standards, on a small percentage of students, .5 %( Kubick & McLoughlin, 2005). So, if a school has a high rate of students who are disabled or have a condition such as dyslexia they are held to the same standard as a school whose student body is made up of predominantly gifted children. In this instance the children at the first school, who are bright children, but are unable to be held up to the same standards as the “norm” will lose much needed funding. In 1994 by demand of George W. Bush Standardized testing became a mandatory practice. These tests not only dictate whether or not a student will be able to advance to the next grade level, they are also an essential factor in the funds that will be received by the school. According to Boese (2011), “ The need for high scores has caused many school officials to encourage cheating as well as raise their school’s score by any means possible,” (pp. 346)Apparently, teachers and administration alike have had no other choice but to resort to dishonest means in order to keep their school open and funded. In addition, Boese explains that today’s teachers are spending so much time preparing students for these tests that children are finding it difficult to obtain necessary critical thinking skills.
Children are individuals; they are extremely unique and I think it is unfair to try to standardize our youth. Boese’s article points out that standardized tests force educators to focus all attention on instructing every student the same way, in order for them to teach a curriculum that people who are not educators deem as relevant. Thus, the “No Child Left Behind Act” ; will indeed leave many bright children behind.
In his article Boese mentions that educators are spending so much time teaching children to regurgitate information from memory, teaching kids to be free thinkers is almost a thing of the past. I say that we are taking the most precious part of the learning experience and throwing it out of the door. What will happen to our children when they become adults and realize that they are no longer being spoon fed information?
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Indeed, today’s children will soon become our future and if things continue the way they have our future is becoming bleak. How, may I ask will these children be able to excel once they begin college? Standardized testing is no longer relevant when one seeks higher education. Each student is graded individually, and creative thinking is mandatory.
Accordingly, President Obama has recently released a blueprint mapping out how he plans on changing the No Child Left Behind Act. According to Jost (2010), “The blueprint appears to de-emphasize test scores somewhat by calling for broader assessments of schools and students, including such measures as graduation rates. But instead of rating all schools, Obama's plan calls for focusing enforcement on the worst-performing schools. They would face the possibility of stringent “restructuring” remedies that range from firing the principal and at least half the teaching staff to turning the school over to new management or closing it altogether.”(pp.1)
Teachers and administration alike are feeling so much pressure to succeed that they are willing to resort to dishonest practices. It is my opinion that most educators begin their career with a fantastic sense of integrity and responsibility; so, the pressure must be extreme in order for them to risk everything for grades on a test. Additionally, if said school keeps scoring low on the test; that school will be punished these punishments range from change in the curriculum, to replacement of staff, and in some instances even the closing of the school. According to Clemitt (2011), Caruso who has been a teacher for 26 years, has gained a prestigious certification, and won teaching awards states”“If my student test scores show I'm an ineffective teacher I'd like to know what contributes to it. What do I need to do to bring my average up” (pp.1)? This telling statement shows that teachers are willing to make changes. If only people who are so quick to point fingers, would lend a hand instead. So, in essence the No Child Left Behind Act, in fact, leaves many children behind.
In Conclusion, the NCLBA, which uses standardized tests to measure the progress of students, needs to become a thing of the past. Some of the theories of this method do, in fact, look good on paper. The problem is that there are fatal flaws in the execution of this system. It may indeed be a good idea to reward schools that do exceptionally on these tests. However, punishing schools that do poorly is not the answer. Many schools feel so much pressure to achieve high test scores that they are able to focus on very little else. Some schools are even resorting to cheating in order to appear to have high test scores.
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