Monday, May 28, 2007

No Test Left Behind in South Dakota

There is a startlingly harsh assessment of No Child Left Behind in the current Time Magazine cover story (June 4).

The brutality of the whole test-centered initiative, which threatens schools with sanctions instead of support if they don't meet improvement standards, is made clear in a figure that compares state test results for reading against Federal test results. South Dakota comes up with one of the largest spreads between state and Federal test results - according to our state tests, 87% of SD fourth-graders are proficient in reading. However, according to the standard Federal test, only 33% are.

Even with the apparently easy SD tests, the State reports we didn't meet the NLCB goals in 2006, largely because some groups are being left behind. (I think you can guess who without following the link.) By the way, I agree with Time that NCLB does provide useful information, all the way down to your local SD school--do check out the site. It's the "produce the numbers or starve" aspect of NLCB that concerns me--it actually stifles innovation as schools are forced to focus their efforts around test numbers.

There's a graph that compares all the states that's really well laid out. On the web, there is a less informative but nevertheless interesting interactive graphic where you can easily compare with other states. Nebraska is worse, but somehow that doesn't make me feel better. Hm, seems to me the so-called red states have easier tests in general. Shocking.

This doesn't take into account that in some states it has been demonstrated that some teachers cook the test results, either to cheat to cover their own poor performance, or simply out of desperation with a system stacked against schools and kids with unmet needs.

If NCLB has any hope of helping education, we can't let local governments dependent on artificially positive results writing the tests--the conflict of interest is simply way too great.

1 comment:

  1. My brother, a secondary science teacher, hates "No Child Left Behind". It is not only the school that influences learning--it is more the importance and support that parents give. He just left a school district in which the vast majority of parents did not value education; why, if the kid was going to work at the chicken processing plant like everyone else? Why bother? He said he hated that so few cared. When parents don't care, or the home atmosphere is such that learning is near to impossible, the school district has an uphill battle anyway.