A Better Way to Assess Students and Evaluate Schools
Most Americans agree: We need a better way to assess students and evaluate schools. The latest Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll found that only one out of four respondents thought the No Child Left Behind law, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, had helped schools in their community. Even U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., an original sponsor of that legislation and the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, agrees that NCLB may now be, as he put it, “the most negative brand” in the country.
As state testing intensified under the law and punitive sanctions were imposed, score gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress slowed or halted for reading and math at all grade levels for almost all groups. Gap closing among demographic groups likewise slowed or stopped. Too much standardized testing damaged learning, particularly for the nation’s neediest children. The test-and-punish approach distracted attention from more valuable reforms.
Yet, the underlying problems that propelled passage of NCLB remain. The nation still needs rational and effective approaches to school improvement, including strong curricula, skilled teaching, and equitable opportunities to learn. Society must address the consequences of poverty that undermine learning. Accountability systems and assessments should support...
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