The secret is out that No Child Left Behind's brand of measuring success and failure for students and schools does not work. For five years, principals and teachers across the country have been subjected to immense pressure to bump up students' test scores, by any means necessary. While NCLB certainly did not introduce high-stakes standardized testing, it has escalated it to an unprecedented level.
Unfortunately for NCLB-touters, raising test scores and raising student learning are not the same thing, as Bob Herbert discusses in his New York Times column, "High Stakes Flimflam."
Herbert zeroes in on the law's centrally flawed logic of allowing each state to determine student "proficiency" and make its own tests:
"A study released last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Northwest Evaluation Association found that 'improvements in passing rates on state tests can largely be explained by declines in the difficulty of those tests.'
"The people in charge of most school districts would rather jump from the roof of a tall building than allow an unfettered study of their test practices. But that kind of analysis is exactly what's needed if we're to get any real sense of how well students are doing."
The current culture of living and dying with the all-important test has thus led to widespread bar-lowering (by test-makers to claim success), and obsessing (by administrators and teachers under intense pressure). Under this NCLB-abetted system, the children are the patently left behind. Addressing students' individual needs and learning styles becomes low-priority when all that matters is shoveling one-size-fits-all "test-taking strategies" down their throats.
The report Herbert cites, "The Proficiency Illusion," provides a stark counterpoint to the NCLB victory rhetoric disseminated by the Bush administration. In summary, the researchers revealed "that the tests that states use to measure academic progress under the No Child Left Behind Act are creating a false impression of success, especially in reading and especially in the early grades."
States dole out lucrative contracts to publishing corporations to make their tests. Our public school testing system is currently entrenched with a multi-million dollar corporate interest in keeping the ludicrous state-testing system going. It just isn't working for anyone but the corporations and those who want to claim victory at any cost -- even when the children they claim to help remain as struggling as ever.
Dan Brown is a New York City teacher and the author of the memoir, "The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle."