Test Scores Improving, But Not BECAUSE Of NCLB


I have a subscription to THE Journal and enjoying staying abreast of technology integration and trends throughout K-12. This month, I happened to catch the headline “NEA: Test Scores Improving in Spite of NCLB” in this month’s edition. President Bush signed off on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2001 with stringent requirements that produced more testing, accountability, and data (lots of data).

A study released this month by the Center on Education Policy examined state data and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) through last year. In response to this study, Reg Weaver, National Education Association (NEA) president, dismissed NCLB’s role in any achievement gains. “The report seems to confirm that despite six years of being saddled with the fundamentally flawed and overly prescriptive federal No Child Left Behind law, educators, school administrators and local school districts are making a difference in increasing student achievement.

“Imagine what would happen to student test scores if educators and local school districts didn’t have to teach in the test, label and punish regime established under NCLB. Think for a second about what would happen if the law didn’t force educators to view students as standardized test scores,” Weaver continued. “The American public is ready for a new era in K-12 education, one that prepares all students for success with 21st century skills and the critical knowledge to succeed in our changing world, and gives educators the freedom to teach every child.”

Like it or not, NCLB brought about a degree of accountability and change. Accountability from the standpoint of ensuring students’ standardized test scores are used to baseline classroom instruction and change arguably from the standpoint that many teachers adapted lesson plans to “teach to the test” or at least align classroom curriculum and experiences with the areas emphasized in such tests in order to realize improved test scores. It also brought unprecedented change in that federal law had intervened in what had previously been an area guided solely by state and local government.

While the concept of ensuring every child has an equal opportunity to learn and succeed within a given classroom, it doesn’t come without a cost (both literally and figuratively). Inner cities and rural areas as well as those that have a high-minority, low-income tend to experience neither equity nor excellence. In the literal sense, funding has been a big issue ever since the government imposed its guidelines and requirements for states and their school districts (often under-funding these initiatives). During the Bush administration, educational technology funding has regularly been subject to budget cuts – this fund particularly attempts to balance technology equity issues within schools by distributing funds based on free and reduced lunch percentages. Yet, the government proposes that we spend $67 billion less on education. This after the Government Accountability Office generated a report on the progress of this “data management initiative” detailing how time-intensive and costly such an initiative would be to implement. According to the report, “states spent approximately 45,000 hours and nearly $1.2 million responding to the department’s requests for certain elementary and secondary education data” in 2004. From the Department of Education’s side, “over $5 million was spent in 2004 administering certain data collections” including federal funds for staff to administer the collections as well as contractors to analyze the data.