End of NCLB = End of High-Stakes Tests?

Rather late, rather lame, but still, it showed up in my local paper: President Obama announced the potential demise of No Child Left Behind. The reason I say lame? He didn’t exactly end the law (that would have been far too brash), but he provided a way for states to opt out and provide their own measurements of progress.

A smart and courageous president would have simply abolished the law. It is well known to be expensive, clumsily funded, ineffective, and burdensome to states.

Most obviously, as we approach 2012, when all students from all states will all achieve 100% on all standardized tests, according to the theory of this legislation, everyone knows it can never happen. Rather than abolish the silly law which demanded it, President Obama just shuffled the burden back to the states.

Legislators like standardized tests. They think that test results prove that their (always heavy) education expenditures are well spent.

Administrators, teachers, and parents very much dislike these tests. They know that test results are unreliable because tests are unreliable. If you think I am wrong, just do a google search for “sample standardized test” in language arts or math (as here). Try a child-sized level, like 5th grade. See how you do. You will feel discouraged and confused, because the test questions are not always comprehensible, even to a decently-educated adult like yourself. Imagine a media-saturated middle-class kid, or an ESL student, or an intellectually-handicapped student taking that test. And they all have to take that test.

We also know that a brief one-day snapshot of a student’s work can never reveal how well a student has learned throughout the year. The combination of test stress, inept tests, learning peaks and plateaus, and more, invalidate results even before we read them.

Got guts?

Abolish the law. Then abolish the foolish, under-educated notion that test results validate anything, and THEN, get on with the interesting business of educating our young.



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