The No Child Left Behind Act is the most recent rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, which was designed to aid the poorer schools in the United States, the No Child Left Behind Act will be rewritten this year, with some luck, because of the letter that was written to Congress by the superintendents.
In 2001, the new iteration dictated that schools test students once a year in math during grades 3-8, and once in grades 10 -12. Students must also be tested in science one time during grades 3-5, 6-8 and 10-12. The schools, the districts and the states must now report the results of testing separated in subgroups like major races, low-income students, students with disabilities and English-language learners.
The Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 was first enacted by the Johnson administration as part of their War on Poverty campaign. The act has been rewritten or reauthorized seven times since 1965. The intention of the act is to bring much-needed funding to the struggling and less-funded schools in the country. Districts serving lower-income students are notoriously awarded less federal funding than districts which serve higher-income students.
Currently, school superintendents have banded together to request that Congress rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act. Teachers don’t appreciate the No Child Left Behind Act. The superintendents say that it is another example of federal overreach and it causes teachers to teach to the test, which occurs when teachers stop teaching their written curriculum and start teaching the subjects that will be covered by the standardized tests.
Forcing teachers to teach information that is on a standardized test is despicable. Standardized testing is not the best way to test if a student is learning the material. Some students know the material but do not test well, and their mastery of the skill is lost in their test anxiety. When teachers teach to the test, the test is no longer a valid assessment of the student’s knowledge, but becomes an assessment on how well the student learned the items for the test. In addition, when teachers teach to items on the test, the outcome is a simple regurgitation of the information the teacher taught to prepare them for the test. The student is no longer learning the information needed to pass the next grade, but learning what to put on a test. The No Child Left Behind Act holds students back by making a standardized test the most important part of receiving funding. Teaching to the test also takes away critical thinking opportunities and makes it almost impossible for the students to learn critical thinking skills since they are only regurgitating information for an exam.
Class sizes need to be smaller and students need access to physical education and music classes. When schools are catering to the standardized tests, they forget about the rest of the classes which help to build a well-rounded education. Music and physical education courses get dropped in order to make room for math and science so that the school will be able to get their annual funding. Clearly, it is important to train a well-rounded student and allow them to explore all of their varied interests as opposed to catering only to the standardized tests.
The largest teacher’s union in the nation, the National Education Association, has started a $500,000 ad campaign encouraging lawmakers to reduce the focus on standardized testing. A teacher’s aide, speaking on the commercial, states that testing is not an adequate bridge between poor schools and wealthy schools. No Child Left Behind needs to be rewritten per the superintendents of schools in order for it to become the legislation that truly aids poorer schools in the way it was always meant to be.
Opinion by Deneishia Jacobpito
Photo by Elliott Brown – Flickr License