To the immense gratitude of educators and parents everywhere, many of the tenets of No Child Left Behind are coming under scrutiny as a rewrite of the law is debated in Congress. Since being written into law in 2001, NCLB has failed to produce the results that were promised. The act focuses on using test scores to reward or punish schools for academic performance. The problem with this, according to most educators, is that the standardized tests do not accurately measure a child’s progress, as there are many factors that influence the scores on such tests.
For decades, there has been debate over whether the standardized tests favor a certain demographic. Doris Entwistle and Karl Alexander found, in a study conducted in 1988, that, over time, standardized tests proved to favor white children over African-American children for a variety of reasons. Gender also played a factor in test results, as well as income level and parental education level (461).
With all these variable affecting student achievement on standardized tests, how can they be an accurate, objective measure of student intelligence? This is a serious problem for No Child Left Behind, since funding is based on how well students do on standardized tests. Schools that have a large African-American population will be at a disadvantage to other schools, based on Entwistle and Alexander's findings.
Another serious problem has evolved over the years, as schools begin to “teach to the test”. This philosophy leads to students being prepared for these tests not by teaching them content but by taking a series of practice tests, which reduce actual classroom time and costs schools thousands of dollars.
All states have at least one test to measure student achievement, and taking the test used to mean one or two days for the students to take the test, complete with snacks and an attitude of getting time off school. Now, many schools spend thousands of dollars buying and administering practice tests several times a year, and stressing the importance of the test to students throughout the year by including many lessons aimed at doing well on standardized tests. Hours upon hours of instruction time is now spent on preparing for these tests instead of teaching content. In the end, there has been little to no data to prove that this method of testing improves student performance.
In the end, many students become overly stressed about test scores and perform even more poorly on the tests. This leads to many schools losing funding when it is desperately needed. President Obama has granted many waivers over the years to states that allow them to show progress through methods other than standardized testing; however, he continues to support annual testing for students grades 3-8 and high school. As Congress debates the issue, schools must continue with business as usual.
Doris R. Entwisle and Karl L. Alexander. ( (May, 1988). Factors Affecting Achievement Test Scores and Marks of Black and White First Graders. The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 88, No. 5, Special Issue: Minorities, pp. 449-471. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1002053