The hold up on NCLB and Standardized Testing

Just about anyone who is anyone around the education cooler admits that the mandatory standardized testing is hurting kids.  Even some of the most adamant supporters of common core are screaming above the din to not throw out CC with the standardized testing.  Finally it appears that Congress is going to eliminate the federal mandate on how the testing is used (vis a vis teacher evaluation).  Yet, what is the hold up? I’ve figured that a lot of this was money oriented, but it appers I finally found what the hold up is about.

Vox posted an interesting article today which seems to throw a great many minority civil rights groups under the bus.   Nationally, the large groups have been huge backers of NCLB, and for good reason:  Under NCLB, schools with minority populations couldn’t be considered passing, unless each of the minority subgroups are also passing.  In fact, as much as we knock NCLB, this one aspect of NCLB was an overall good thing.  Any schools that were focusing only on the top kids to bring up scores, now had to be desperately worried about what some of the poorer performing students were doing. the original NCLB law had a lot of threatening language, but almost nothing ever really effected a school (ironically, there were gains in minority education, without the threats becoming real). Under Obama, the threats to schools, teachers, and to a lesser degree administrators have become frighteningly real, and are really starting to rip at the fabric of US education (even in private and charter schools).  This may have something to do with Obama being a lot more cozy with large civil rights group than his predecessor.

However, the article has a ray of hope.  Even while the big groups are pushing Congress to maintain the testing requirements and punitive measures, Apparently more and more of the state and local civil rights groups are seeing the light, and are realizing how hurt kids have become by this.  For one, in order to get scores up, you need to put a huge amount of resources toward those test scores … this is true of low performing schools, but even high performing schools need to be critically concerned about demonstrating improvement (which gets statistically more difficult the higher your score is … and we have even seen some states where the expectation on the teacher to improve scores was quite literally (in the literal meaning of the word, “literally”) impossible to accomplish because it would have require students to score above 100% to avoid bringing down the teachers’ evaluation.  However, richer schools can throw money at tests, and still maintain other programs.  Schools in poor areas (read: heavily minority areas) are being gutted of music and the arts and other activities to free up money for test prep (not to mention money to get with the new Common Core).  A lot of locals are seeing this as having the opposite effect on kids, as more and more kids want out and away from school.

In the end, there needs to be a better way.  I think you can require schools to take tests, and you can set different goals for different schools.  If schools are doing fine, leave them alone and let them keep going.  If there are problem areas, identify the problem areas and allow schools to identify how they are tackling those problems.  One sized solutions cannot help what is a highly complicated set of problems.

Edit:  It appears that earlier today, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new version of NCLB which significantly reduces the role of the federal government in state education.  I think the Senate and House need to reconcile their bills.  Hopefully, this is a first step, but it will at lest now make it that much harder for the standardized test backers to fight their fight since they will need to fight it out in 50 state houses instead of just with the Congress.


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