A compromise on No Child Left Behind

11:26 am

How about this compromise. Once a child is in the 5th or 6th grade and has passed benchmarks then let’s quit testing him or her. No more NCLB testing, none, zip, nada. This does a lot of positive things yet retains the NCLB idea (albeit corrupted one) of leaving no child behind.

The positive effects are easily seen.

It saves a fortune. It guarantees that once kids can read decently well the schools can focus on broadening their education and not waste horrendous amounts of time and energy testing them over and over. It allows more time and energy and resources to be directed at students who really are behind. Now, much of that effort is diluted on kids who are doing just fine. It creates a different standard for public accountability, one more applicable to good education. “My kid passed benchmarks, now what is she getting?” “My kid hasn’t passed benchmarks. What are you doing to bring her up to grade level?”

I imagine you could even put together a test for some younger children which tested to see if they were at 6th grade level. Heck, a lot of 4th graders could do fine and then be exempt also.

This idea would certainly make a lot more sense than the resource-robbing and education-subverting mess we have now.

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Steve Buel has taught in public schools for 41 years. He served on the PPS school board (1979-1983) and co-authored the 1980 School Desegregation Plan. He has followed PPS politics since 1975.

filed under: Assessment, No Child Left Behind

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7 Responses

  1. Comment from pdxmomto2:

    The true purpose of all the testing is not to improve public schools but to “prove” that public schools are failing, so that the right-wing can demand vouchers and use my tax dollars to send their children to private (religious) schools! . . . ok, maybe I’m too cynical . . .

  2. Comment from howard:

    Steve B: Would you also suspend state mandated testing after the same grade levels?

    Oregon is supposed to have Information Technology capable of keeping track of individual student as well as classroom performance on tests from year to year. Some educators say this information is particularly valuable in identifying students in need of extra help.

    I would like to see better coordination between state and NCLB testing; adjustment of current standards for ESL and Spedial Ed students and recognition and agreement among all parties that a more reasonable goal for 2014 is for 80% of students to meet standards that suitably challenge all students.

    In other words, let’s see if we can all get along and make something good come out of the money the feds are willing to spend on improving the delivery of public education services.

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Howard, yep, I’d suspend the works after a kid reached benchmark near the 5th or 6th grade. The testing is not, in my opinion, particularly helpful except for those students who are behind (who you continue to test). When teachers talk about it being helpful this is usually what they mean, or they mean that it helps them know how to test kids better.

    Note, this doesn’t preclude teachers testing for specific purposes, just the massively expensive school-wide testing.

    If you want to know if a kid can do fractions it is not hard to give them a little test to figure it out. And one writing assignment the teacher corrects with a student doing 100% of the work is enough to know how well a kid writes.

    I think a lot of people don’t understand how important it is to many, many teachers and administrators to justify what they are doing (the testing). So teachers will say it helps them when usually all they have looked at is the general spread sheet for the students’ scores. And administrators will say how it helps them get a handle on how kids in their school are doing and how successful they are being when in fact what the scores usually show is the socio-economic level of the kids in their school — something they, of course, already know. There are many variations of this, but the one that I have outlined is certainly the most common.

  4. Comment from howard:

    Steve B:

    I can see the points you are making in elementary schools with stable teacher cadres. In schools with high turnover from year to year, it is helpful for teachers to refer to test scores attained in prior years by students they are unfamiliar with. Same goes for students who are new to the school.

    I also believe that a minimum amount of testing can be done at reasonable cost on all students. Doing so would remove the possibility of stigma falling to those students singled out for testing.

    I find the following quote very important where PPS elementary schools that have been abandoned by teachers and families in favor of better performing schools are concerned: “administrators will say how it (testing) helps them get a handle on how kids in their school are doing and how successful they are being when in fact what the scores usually show is the socio-economic level of the kids in their school.”

    What better recommendation for equity in PPS neighborhood schools is there than the low test scores and economic status in PPS schools that have been abandoned by teachers and motivated families.

  5. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Howard, your points are pretty good, but what I am suggesting is that the child’s test scores do follow the child (he/she has met benchmarks or not) and there is still a listing of the percent of children that have passed benchmarks in each school (that’s why I suggest it is a compromise). The other point of creating a stigma is less worrisome to me. We do this all the time when we have special classes for kids who are behind. There has always been a trade-off between creating a stigma and leveling with a child that they are not doing as well as they could nor working as hard as they could. I tend to error on the side of being honest with the child and tell them when they are not working hard enough nor trying hard enough. And I try to make it clear that it is not intelligence but lack of effort that creates the failure.

  6. Comment from howard:

    Steve B: Thanks for leveling.

  7. Comment from marcia:

    I think kids have always been tested, and as long as testing is meant to inform instruction..then fine. It gives the teacher information on what needs to happen with the student to improve learning…fine. When it becomes punitive and political as in NCLB, then there is no room for that.