Carl Bosch asks who exactly thought No Child Left Behind was a good idea.
Nationwide Testing Rant #1
We’re involved in our annual two week statewide assessment / chess match called Mastery Testing. Every state has a similar program. Each day from 9:00 until 10:15 the school descends into a Matrix-like slow motion and silence. Practice lockdowns display more energy and monks would envy our level of monastic quiet.
We’ve been involved in this type of testing for a couple decades now. The original concept was to identify students who fell into the remedial range in the main subject areas, reading and math. There were supportive additional programs that were designed to aid those students for the students the testing identified. Some years ago the testing changed and was flipped upside down to begin reporting how many students met the goal in those areas. The new version of the test had the same basic information but used a very different method of reporting and way of taking stock. The students are separated into strata by the test: Advanced, Goal, Proficient, Basic, and Below Basic.
In 2002, the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) federal law came into effect. Pay careful attention to some of NCLB’s core beliefs:
- All students will reach high standards, at a minimum attaining proficiency or better in reading and mathematics by 2013-2014.
- By 2013-2014, all students will be proficient in reading by the end of the third grade.
- All students will graduate from high school.
Really!? I’m not saying that these aren’t great goals but where is the realistic understanding of education in America? We can set those beliefs up as wishes or dreams, perhaps? Sure, okay. Let’s aspire to these hopes and challenges, but making them the honest to god goals? Were right thinking adults actually believing this is possible? Why didn’t we also say that every single student would also be able to jog an eight minute mile, would always be respectful of their classmates, and would consistently choose to eat a healthy nutritious lunch? No rational adult would espouse these goals because they’re impossible! Be honest—and here’s where I’m probably going to get into trouble.
If we place a severely overweight young person in Phys. Ed class, certainly the exercise is good for him or her, but they are not going to run an eight minute mile, and maybe never will. The boy with a seventy-eight I.Q. who’s placed in a mainstream, mixed level Science class will benefit from individualized instruction and being with his peers, but he will always struggle with the curriculum. Always. If I put a group of thirteen year olds together at a party, a lunch table, or hanging around downtown, to think that they’re going to be respectful and positive all the time is just simply naïve, if not downright crazy.
NCLB might just as well have announced that in a decade we were going to guarantee that all students would be taller, have better eyesight, and have no childhood illnesses. It’s just beyond reason. Let’s not forget that when trying to teach children there are other factors that come into play such as: family dynamics, culture, nutrition, income, genetics, birth order, personal interests, parenting skills, pre-school experience, health, and motivation, just to name the most prominent. No scientist would begin an experiment with all these variables. Let’s face it; we’re all different, very different.
I’m all for equal freedom, equal rights, and equal opportunity, but can all students learn at the same level? I want to hope and believe they should have the chance. Can they all reach Advanced or Goal, meaning mastery? I have my doubts.
Photo credit: Flickr / Håkan Dahlström