| Volume 64 | Number 3
NCLB: Taking Stock, Looking Forward
NCLB: Taking Stock, Looking Forward
In this issue, Paul E. Barton (“Needed, Higher Standards for Accountability,” p. 28) writes that the model for school accountability represented by NCLB “is now so locked into state and federal laws that its general shape seems here to stay.” Many of the realities of NCLB are now so established in schools that they may seem part of the background and lose their power to surprise or to call forth teachers' close scrutiny. This issue helps readers look closer into how the law is affecting teaching, for good or ill.
A Look at What Teachers Say
Several articles in this issue present statistics gleaned from surveying teachers and administrators about their experiences with NCLB.
- In “The Side Effects of NCLB” (p. 64), Gordon Cawelti writes that elementary teachers reported spending “75 percent of their time teaching reading and math, leaving inadequate instructional time for other subjects.”
- A survey by Wisconsin ASCD (“What Are NCLB's Instructional Costs?”, p. 43) revealed that in 2005–2006 the state's teachers spent an average of 976 hours administering tests, and students missed up to 8.6 days of instruction because of testing.
- 73 percent of the Wisconsin teachers surveyed listed specific ways NCLB had negatively affected their teaching; 39 percent of these negative consequences were related to the disruption of educational services.
- 78 percent of teachers of English language learners surveyed by Wayne E. Wright (“A Catch-22 for Language Learners,” p. 22) reported seeing students randomly filling in standardized tests because they couldn't understand the questions. Eighty-eight percent of teachers had seen students become upset or physically sick during testing.
One way to probe how the law is affecting your school is to ask each teacher in your group the questions listed below. Then assign each group member to ask 10–15 teachers in a particular grade each of these questions, tally their answers, and report back to the group. Survey special education teachers and school administrators, too.
- Since NCLB took effect four years ago, have you reduced instructional time in any subject area to make more time to teach math and reading? In which subjects have you reduced teaching time?
- How many days (or hours) of instruction would you estimate were disrupted by the process of testing your students last school year? Have you seen any consequences from losing this instructional time?
- Since schools began disaggregating test score data by race and socioeconomic status, as required by NCLB, have you given more attention to students who may have formerly seemed “invisible,” such as the lowest achievers or students with disabilities? Is your school doing more to ensure that such kids succeed?
Read the comments practicing teachers sent in about NCLB in this issue (“A Firsthand Look at NCLB, p. 48”). Do any of their reflections strike a chord in you? Discuss whether you recognize any of the specific stresses or benefits these teachers say the law has brought to their school.
Considering the International Picture
In “Assessment Around the World,” (p. 58), Iris C. Rotberg points out that many countries in which most students score high on standardized tests do not administer such tests until secondary school. England has abandoned its practice of testing all students at age 11 to determine their eligibility for prestigious schools, although it still tests all students at 16. Consider:
- How would giving no standardized tests until middle school or even high school change teaching and the atmosphere in U.S. schools? What would teachers—and students—gain from this change? What would they lose?
- Choose one feature of another country's standardized testing system that seems positive to you. Share your choice with the group; discuss whether and how this practice could be adopted in the context of the current accountability framework.
Copyright © 2006 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development