RQ: Was the practice of “teaching to the test” a problem in education before the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and to what extent did the law make it more prevalent?
The drive to make teachers more accountable for their students is a trend spreading across the nation like wildfire. While there are positives to accountability there are also many negative aspects to go alongside. I believe that teachers should be accountable, but to what degree? How much impact, for example, is it fair to expect a teacher to have on a student who comes from a broken home? What do we expect from a teacher who takes on a student who received a poor education prior to entering that teacher’s class? Are we expecting a teacher to produce the same test scores from students in a lesser class as they do from students in an honors class? President Bush created the No Child Left Behind act in 2001 immediately after taking office. NCLB supports standards based educational reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. States must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels in order to receive federal school funding. Over the past decade we have seen the entire idea of education change due to the No Child Left Behind program. Test scores are one way to evaluate students, teachers, and schools, but cannot be the only way. It is important to remember that tests are more than just numbers and scores. One of the biggest problems with teaching to the test is the pressure placed on teachers. Their superiors on the school board apply pressure, but the media places the most pressure upon them. Test scores are rising, but for the absolute wrong reason. The question I wish to explore is whether or not teaching to the test has been a problem in education before the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and to what extent the law made it more prevalent.
The primary source I have used so far has been the New York Times online database. I spoke with a librarian and he directed me to a few specific articles. The first of which was called Standardized Test Scores: Voodoo Statistics? by Edward B. Fisk. Its focus is on a town called Lake Wobegon where Chester E. Finn Jr., the assistant United States Secretary of Education was in charge of research. What Mr. Finn found was entitled the “Lake Wobegon effect”. Finn described the “Lake Wobegon effect” as a correlation between grades as well as scores. He noticed a trend of teenagers becoming depressed as well as having low self-esteem depending on their recent grades. He formed a non-profit organization called Friends for Education Inc in hopes of changing the obsession with test based teaching.
In their search for answers they noticed the major steps that teachers take in order to keep up with NCLB. First, definitions of average are no longer what they used to be. Major tests are based on norms that have been changed multiple times throughout the years. Schools have gotten much better at teaching to the test in order take the below average testers into the above average category. The article states, “Testers say that schools have gotten better and the average has been rising. Consequently, many students who might otherwise now be scored “below average” are still “above average” compared with the early 1980’s sample groups. “ (1).
For the next step in the process I plan on comparing the relevance of teach to the test in a few online databases. I am going to break the search down by comparing the topics relevance before 2001 when NCLB was started, and after 2001 in the new test based era. The problem is not the fact that NCLB has caused testing to be taken so seriously the problem is that after its implementation in 2001 schools will do anything to achieve their goal. NCLB has skyrocketed accountability and it is apparent through the findings of the Friends for Education that the prevalence due to it is not something to be overlooked.
1. Hamilton, R. A. (1986, Jan 12). Schools analyzing state test scores. New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. CN22-CN22. http://search.proquest.com/docview/110916131?accountid=14405
2. HARTOCOLLIS, A. (2000, Nov 21). Study links rises in school financing and test scores. New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. B4-B4. http://search.proquest.com/docview/91626986?accountid=14405
3. By, E. B. (1988, Feb 17). Standardized test scores: Voodoo statistics? New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. B9. http://search.proquest.com/docview/110596120?accountid=14405