What’s Missing From Education Reform in America?

1990s—From Standardized Testing to No Child Left Behind

A Brief History of Standardized Testing from the 1980s to 2001:

  • The emphasis on testing began as a way of tracking the effectiveness of the back-to-basics movement intended to remediate the decline in achievement.
  • When test scores didn’t improve, schools gave more tests.
  • When test scores didn’t improve, administrators instructed teachers to teach students how to take tests.
  • When teaching students how to take tests didn’t improve test scores, teachers were instructed to teach to the test.
  • When teaching to the test didn’t work, huge public outcries followed the posting of test scores. But the outcry soon waned; and the test results were then filed away, never used to improve the quality of education.
  • When giving even more tests still yielded no improvement, Congress mandated testing with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Speaking of No Child Left Behind in Many Children Left Behind, Deborah Meier and George Wood, wrote that

No Child Left Behind “is set up to penalize schools that actually do attempt to make a difference for our poor and minority students. . . . Called the ‘diversity penalty,’ this phenomenon occurs because the greater diversity in a school, the more likely the school will fail to meet (the required standard). . . . This is because of a specific feature of the legislation which states that if one so-called subgroup fails to meet the standard, the entire school fails. . . . For example in one Florida school district, a school previously judged to be outstanding suddenly found itself rated as failing even though 80 percent of its students were judged to be proficient in  reading and math. The reason for the failing score was that a group of 45 special education students, out of a population of 1,150 students, failed to improve test scores.”