This week a video of President Obama was released, in it he talks about limiting the amount of time students and teachers spend in the classroom to to no more than 2%. “The administration now believes all the time spent memorizing facts has taken the joy out of learning–not just for kids, but for the teachers who are restricted in their creativity.” “And, tests should be just one source of information. We should use classroom work, surveys, and other factors to give us an all-around look at how our students and schools are doing.” the White House has laid out a plan urging legislators to follow the lead of many states by enacting new guidelines.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is supposed to be updated every few years, yet has not been amended since 2001 when President Bush renamed it to No child Left Behind. His update included “spend[ing] more money, more resources [on] methods that work. Not feel-good methods. Not sound-good methods. But methods that actually work.” The methods included a sweeping new federal system of testing and accountability, with its emphasis on standardized testing. Even though the law expired in 2007, it will remain on the books until it is replaced.
I think it is past time that we make changes to the No Child Left Behind Act. Just as there are various learning styles, there are different ways in which we excel at communicating what we know, therefore measuring student knowledge solely based on standardized tests is not a fair nor complete means of assessing and measuring. Some students get test anxiety and the pressure to do well on a test is too much, others don’t think in terms of multiple choice questions, but give them a more open-ended activity and they will show their understanding.
We need a complete look at the students’ progress throughout the year, not just looking at the endpoint. We need to take into account where each student started the year and compare their ending point to this, that way we can get a true representation for their progress throughout the year. By broadening the ways we assess children we can get a more complete look at their knowledge.
While the majority of those who are in the field of education are against No Child Left Behind, there are some who support it. They make claims like “standardized tests are reliable and objective measures of student achievement.” I have to agree that yes, they are reliable in the sense that they are multiple choice tests being scored by a machine and there is no human subjectivity or bias. I also have to disagree because while the scoring of the tests may be reliable, the results and what they mean are not. I have also heard before that “teaching to the test can be a good thing because it focuses on essential content and skills, eliminates time-wasting activities that don’t produce learning gains, and motivates students to excel.”Some of the “time-wasting activities” that they are referring to may be how some students learn best. Not every child has the ability to, or learns the best by lecturing and listening. With all that teachers are expected to teach to their students and the time frame they are expected to do it in before the weeks of testing makes for impractical teaching and learning situations.
No Child Left Behind may have been implemented with good intentions but its result was not a good one. It is time to take a look at what our students need and how we can help them and their teachers. There is no question that changes need to be made, the sooner they happen the better.