No Child Left Behind: The Test


Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the federal government has mandated that all 91,000 public schools in the United States be rated on the basis of standardized test scores. The new law’s unmistakable message is if it’s not on a test, it’s not worth knowing.


Accordingly, the following information about NCLB and U.S. education policy is presented in the form today’s policymakers seem to love best: objective, multiple-choice questions that leave no room for doubt, debate, or complete sentences.


Your goal is to circle the truth with a number-two pencil. You will have twenty minutes to complete the test. You may not look at any other part of the magazine during that time. Nor may you talk, eat, go to the bathroom, use a dictionary, or have a creative thought. You may sweat. Answers are at the end of each section. Sources and references are at the end.


I. Testing, Testing . . .


1. Under NCLB the following measure of inequality must be eliminated by 2014:


A. Inequality in school funding.

B. Inequality in child poverty rates.

C. Inequality in access to health care.

D. Inequality in family income.

E. Inequality in standardized test scores.


2. The percentage of schools that did not meet NCLB’s  “adequate yearly progress” targets for the 2002-03 school year included:


A. 5% of Alabama schools.

B. 14% of Wyoming schools.

C. 40% of Illinois schools.

D. 76% of Florida schools.

E. All of the above.


3. The reasons for these widely varying results include the fact that:


A. States have very different standards that make comparisons essentially meaningless.

B. The “AYP” targets are so arbitrary and inappropriate that eventually most schools will be on the list anyway.

C. NCLB actually encourages some states to adopt lower standards to keep schools off the list.

D. The threshold size for counting student subgroups — like special education students or English-language learners — varies widely from state to state.

E. All of the above.


4. NCLB requires that schools make “adequate yearly progress” in equal increments toward 100% proficiency on state tests by 2014. However, according to testing research:


A. 70% of the year-to-year change in test scores for grade levels or schools is random variation.

B. The larger and more diverse a school is, the more likely it will fail to meet AYP.

C. One study concluded that “the AYP system cannot tell the difference between a learning gain and random noise.”

D. All of these.


5. Examples of NCLB’s  impact on classrooms include:


A. In Maine, teacher-made, classroom-base

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