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
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
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.
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!”
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.”
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.
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.
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?