The unintended consequences of nclb
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The unintended consequences of NCLB…. Many top educators and researchers have argued that NCLB:. Is flawed legislation destined to fail as designed Will not produce gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or other tests used to audit states’ systems of education

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The unintended consequences of nclb

The unintended consequences of NCLB…


Many top educators and researchers have argued that nclb

Many top educators and researchers have argued that NCLB:

  • Is flawed legislation destined to fail as designed

  • Will not produce gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or other tests used to audit states’ systems of education

  • Is not closing the achievement gap as it was intended to do

  • Is increasing dropout rates among our nation’s youth

  • Despite these criticisms… NCLB appears to be slated for reauthorization with few modifications


A series of flawed assumptions underlie nclb including

A series of flawed assumptions underlie NCLB including…

Students work harder and learn more when they have to take a high-stakes test

Students will be motivated to do their best and score well on high-stakes tests

Scoring well on high-stakes tests leads to feelings of success by students, while doing poorly on such tests leads to increased efforts to learn

Students and teachers need high-stakes tests to know what is important to teach and to learn

Teachers need to be held accountable through high-stakes testing to motivate them to teach better and to push the lazy ones to work harder

The high-stakes test associated with NCLB are good measures of the curricula taught in school


Still more underlying flaws

Still more underlying flaws…

  • The high-stakes tests provide a kind of level playing field, an equal opportunity for all students to demonstrate their knowledge and skill

  • Teachers use the results of high-stakes tests to help provide better instruction to students

  • Administrators use the results of tests to improve students learning and to design professional development

  • Parents understand high-stakes test scores and can use them to interpret how well their child is doing in school


We re confusing students

We’re confusing students…

When I was teaching sophomore English in 1998, one of my students, a stocky 16-year-old football player, came up to me one day after class to say he wanted to transfer out. His last English teacher, he said, spent much more time preparing her class for the state’s standardized assessment test, mostly by having students bubble in sample tests. He had decided my class, where we analyzed poetry and wrote essays constantly, wasn’t going to help him pass the test. “If I fail, Miss, it’s going to be all your fault.”

Macerna Hernandez, “Test Pressure Is Getting to Our Schools: It’s Inspiring Cheaters and Stifling Real Learning,” editorial, Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2006.


Encouraging unethical behavior

Encouraging unethical behavior…

A survey of teachers and administrators sponsored by a Tennessee newspaper, for example, found that almost 9 percent of the teachers surveyed said they’d witnessed test impropriety on Tennessee’s high-stakes exam. Among several of the tactics reported:

Weak students were seen herded to the library to watch movies for a week while academically stronger students took exams

Teachers were wandering the classrooms during the tests, casually pointing out wrong answers to students or admonishing them, saying, “You know better than that”

Counselors locked their office doors after the state testing was done to “erase stray marks”

There were suspensions for various infractions of students who were academically at the borderline just before the test

Eliminating monitors in testing classrooms, leaving teachers to “do what it takes to get those scores up!”


Tacitly encouraging dropouts

Tacitly encouraging dropouts…

An equally sinister trend is that educators have become complaisant toward students who want to drop out. Since these students are usually (though not always) low scorers on tests, there is little incentive to convince them to stay in school. In fact, schools fare much better if those students leave. So those more challenging students who are more apt to give up, reject schooling and drop out are gleefully allowed to go.

A Florida superintended noted, “When a low-performing child walks into a classroom, instead of being seen as a challenge, or an opportunity for improvement, for the first time since I’ve been in education teachers are seeing [that child] as a liability.”


A crisis of caring and compassion

A crisis of caring and compassion

  • An article in the South Florida SunSentenial highlights the state’s zero tolerance policy for children who must take the test in spite of emotional trauma or face being held back a grade. No flexibility in test procedures was allowed for a 14-year-old child who lost her brother to a shooting and was still mourning; or for the 15-year-old whose father had hung himself in their home, causing the son to suffer anxiety attacks afterward.

  • In Louisiana, one student who was in a car accident that claimed the lives of a brother and a sister—leaving her paralyzed from the chest down and afflicted with a brain injury forcing her to relearn basic math and how to hold a pencil—was forced to take the regular state exam. This practice frustrates educators who are forced to be complicit of acts of cruelty against their own students. In the words of this student’s principal, “It’s unfair and it’s mean. We are hurting the children we are supposed to be helping the most.”


Narrowing the curriculum

Narrowing the curriculum…

Teacher A: “We only teach to the test even at second grade, and have stopped teaching science and social studies. We don’t have assemblies, take few field trips, or have musical productions at grade levels. We even hesitate to ever show a video. Our second graders have no recess except for 20 minutes at lunch.”

Teacher B: “Those things [science and social studies] just fall to the back burner and quite frankly, I just marked report cards for the third grading period and I didn’t do science at all for their third grading periods. Same for the social studies.”

Teacher C: “Projects, [I] eliminated curriculum such as novels I would teach, we didn’t have time to go to the library, we didn’t have time to use the computer labs because they had to cut something. [I] cut things I thought we could live with out. [I] cut presentations, anything that takes very much time, I cut film. We have been cutting like crazy.


More on narrowing the curriculum

More on narrowing the curriculum…

  • Maryland, 2003: Anne Arundel County in Maryland loses 23 middle school art teachers

  • Oregon, 2003: Roseburg Public Schools in Oregon cancel seventh- and eighth-grade foreign-language classes

  • Arizona, 2003: Arizona legislature cuts $7 million in arts funding to schools and other groups

  • Wisconsin, 2003: Milwaukee has lost 9 percent of its art, music, and physical education teachers

  • Rhode Island, 2004: Providence eliminates elementary science and technology-enrichment classes

  • Kansas, 2006: High school freshman required to “double dose” their English classes to raise test scores, at the expense of electives

  • California, 2006: Havenscourt Middle School requires its students to take two periods of all core subjects, drops funding for shop, art, music, and Spanish

    Claus Zastrow and Helen Janc, The Condition of the Liberal Arts in America’s Public Schools: A report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York (Washington, DC: Council for Basic Education, 2004) Heather Hollingsworth, “Students Double Up On Math and English,” Associated Press, Aug. 4, 2006.


Are we really condoning this

Are we really condoning this…

An elementary school principal we know in the suburbs of Boston received her box of test materials from an armored truck guard a few days before the state high-stakes test was to be given. She opened the large carton containing the tests and answer sheets and found also her instructions, a large ziplock bag and latex gloves. Her instructions directed her, on test day, to put on the latex gloves and insert the test booklets that children had vomited on into the ziplock bag, and to return those tests along with the others to the Department of Education.

So the good people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts fully understand that these tests are stressful to children , and they expect a goodly number of children to throw up as a function of their assessment program . Besides high-stakes testing, do we have other programs that are sure to make some of our children sick? Why do we allow ourselves to design testing programs that have these effects? And who is the poor person who has to open these ziplock bags, perhaps months later, and check them in to maintain security? Do we pay that person enough?


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