No Child Left Behind

(See here) where the NY Times, in a piece written by Sam Dillon, reports that the major Democratic candidates for President have been bashing the No Child Left Behind act.

The article states that the three leading candidates all support maintaining accountability; but it would be interesting to explore just how the candidates would go about maintaining it. The only official campaign website belonging to the candidates that helps to shed any light on the subject is John Edwards' site which revealed that he would propose replacing the objective, standardized tests with a more subjective regimen of testing.

The standardized tests have been a focal point of much teacher criticism of the act. Teachers object that they must "teach the test" in order to get their students to pass. Oh the horror. Teachers are forced to teach their students what somebody else, like the students' parents, think the students should be taught. We can not have that now can we? (Sarcasm intended.)

If teachers are being forced to "teach the test" make sure the tests measure those areas that we want the student to be taught in.

However some justifiable criticism can be brought forth about the unfunded mandates contained within the act. So how would I go about reforming No Child Left Behind?

I guess I would pretty much start over. I would seek to only require that all high school diplomas be required to include certification as to whether or not the student receiving the diploma met a minimum skill level standard as measured by standardized testing. No other mandates. Just certification as to whether or not the diploma deserves to be hung on a wall or whether its value amounts to it being so worthless it might as well be used as toilet paper and flushed down the commode.

Perhaps additional tests could be made available for intervening school years, without use of the tests being required, for our educators to use as a tool in assessment of the performance of teachers and schools at each grade level.

There would be no mandates on how to go about teaching the students, that would be left up to the states to determine. The only thing that would be mandated is that the end result would be measured. Did the student receiving the diploma reach a certain, minimum level of proficiency? That is what the testing should measure.

If this results in teachers having to "teach the test" so be it. We will be testing students for the skills and knowledge we want them to learn, and if that requires totally dedicating the entire school year to mastering these skills, so be it. There is nothing to prevent the teacher from branching out into other areas of learning once confidence is reached that the students have mastered the basic skills.

I argue for maintaining the standardized testing. I strongly oppose expensive proposals (like John Edwards is in favor of) without continuing strict, objective, standardized testing to ensure accountability is maintained.


Blogger Cory said...

Teaching to tests creates robots, not thinkers.

The most innovative ages of America came from eras that schools taught creativity, philosophy and critical thinking.

We are now bogged down in so many standardized tests to "measure" our students, that not only are they failing those tests, our newer generations are completely incapable and devoid of the ingenuity and creativity that was a hallmark of the past. They are programmed to do one thing, memorize the words on a page, and spit them back out. Im willing to wager, over half the time they arent even thinking critically about what they are spitting out, and that is likely why they immediatley forget those "skills" you forced them to "learn".

2/07/2008 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

If it takes a standardized test to make sure a student being issued a high school diploma can actually read that diploma then so be it.

Standardized testing might not be the perfect answer, however lack of standardized testing was resulting in students receiving diplomas even though they were functionally illiterate.

2/09/2008 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

Please dont use the functionally illiterate students passing defense. We are in a nation of 95% literacy, and being illiterate is not a colossal problem. Many, if not most, of those do not possess a high school diploma.

The real issue behind this testing is because American children are starting (actually a bit more then "starting") to lag behind the rest of the world. Its not because they cant operate on a functional level, its because they cant do much more then that on average.

So now what? What text book knowledge do we force an average student to know? Core curriculums this day in age are already infinitley more difficult in content (although one could argue computers and high tech calculators have softened that considerably) then in years past when American youths were the brightest in the world.

You cant force students to care about their education, when being intellegent carries a stigma in the society in which they live. Holding a diploma over their head is not going to make them step up to the plate, give any more then they want to give, or retain any of the required knowledge past the point they walk out of the doors of high school.

What they WOULD retain is the ability to think critically and objectively, and they would be able to apply that to anything they might do.

2/14/2008 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

I do not believe that 95% literacy figure unless the standard for determining literacy is well below that which I would expect from a high school graduate.

I am not convinced by your argument against standardized testing. Perhaps the standards tested for are too extreme. However standardized testing should continue that measures a certain level of reading/writing and math/algebra so that potential employers can be confident that the bearer of a high school diploma actually possesses a certain minimum skill level without having to resort to screening tests of their own.

2/15/2008 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

Ok, so how far do we take that? Do we standardize universities as well? After all, those who employ college grads should get some guarantee as well right?

If an employer wants to pay such a low wage, that only illiterates and non-English speakers fill their applicant pool, they deserve what they get. I dont think it should be the governments issue to be a national pre employment insurance. If you hire a bad apple, and are paying a good wage for the job, there will be 10 lined up to take their place....simply fire the guy. If we are going to let the free market play, then let it play, do not use the government and education for yet another big business subsidy.

2/18/2008 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

While many universities receive some form of government assistance, most of their expenses are not borne by the taxpayer.

However in the case of our public schools, the entire cost comes out of the taxpayers pocket. I see nothing wrong with the taxpayer insisting he is getting value for his money.

Elementary and High School students are not allowed a choice of which school to attend. Well, they can still send their kids to private school, however then the entire cost of the private education is at their expense while they still must then pay taxes for the public schools that their kids did not attend.

When it comes to which university to attend, market forces still exist. The government does give some tax breaks for college expenses, however the tax breaks are valid no matter what college, public or private, the student attends.

2/18/2008 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

1. However in the case of our public schools, the entire cost comes out of the taxpayers pocket. I see nothing wrong with the taxpayer insisting he is getting value for his money.

- Who is judging that value? What method is being used? Your value and my value may not be the same, even though we both pay taxes that pay for the schools.

2/26/2008 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

OK, majority rules then. I feel that the majority of taxpayers, especially those with school aged kids, want accountability in our schools.

The NEA might not like it, but too bad. They just do not want to be held to objective standards for results.

2/27/2008 05:10:00 AM  
Blogger Cory said...

1. OK, majority rules then. I feel that the majority of taxpayers, especially those with school aged kids, want accountability in our schools.

- Do you have evidence of this? Furthermore, do you have evidence that some sort of across the board standardized test is the answer to accountability that they want?

2/29/2008 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

No, I'm just saying let's put it to a vote.

2/29/2008 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger Cory said...

If we put that to a vote, then we should put ALL tax payer allocations of funds to a vote. Hmmmm, guess the war in Iraq will immediatley lose all funding.

4/01/2008 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger Little David said...

It is my understanding that if the initial invasion of Iraq had been put to a public vote it would not have been authorized. I was amongst those campaigning against the invasion.

It the continuing costs of the Iraq War were put to a vote I would be amongst those campaigning to continue the costs of until a prudent, not abrupt, withdrawal could be realized. I would also campaign that we need to pay for the costs with increased taxes, not borrowing the money while cutting taxes.

4/18/2008 04:10:00 PM  

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