Congress considers rewriting the No Child Left Behind Law. It should be scrapped completely, but big laws are rarely scrapped. We will be stuck with some version of this law forever, although it might be renamed. The law requires that all students be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014. Yes, the law says all students. That is impossible; we will always have some students who are too stupid or too stubborn to attain proficiency. We cannot mandate perfection.
Educators believe that the problem with “accountability” is the reliance on standardized tests. They are concerned that teachers will spend too much time focusing on the test, and that the students will not learn proper thinking skills. That is nonsense. If the current test is not measuring thinking skills, improve the test.
Students need to learn that tests are a part of life. When the time comes to take the medical licensing exam, bar exam, any FINRA exam, or the CPA exam, the authorities do not give a damn about the prospect’s effort or thinking skills. Commercial truck driving license, HVAC certification, electrician’s license, pilot’s license, nursing, plumbing, welding, tug boat driving, crane operating… Nobody cares.
Pass or Fail – Those are the two options. In the real world, the exam does not care what hurdles or obstacles the job applicant overcame. The exam does not care about improvement. The exam does not care about a troubled childhood, an abusive family, or poverty. This is why students, especially in high school, need to learn how to take standardized tests.
(Unless the student wants to be a New York City firefighter.)
The real reason educators do not like standardized tests is because they do not want schools to be ranked. I understand their fear. They do not want schools (the teachers and administrators) to be punished for the performance of their lazy students. This brings us to the “chicken and egg” problem of school performance. That will be addressed shortly.