Friday, February 25, 2005



I know, this is the third day in a row for No Child Left Behind, but I think it's important. This is our country's future we're talking about.

After I finished posting last night, I began thinking about one of the statements made toward the end of the NCLB article from the New York Times. The statement was:

This last sentence is referring to what is known as an I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan). Students with IEPs receive specific accomodations to compensate for their disability. These accomodations can range from enlarged print for the sight impaired, to extra time for slow readers, to specially colored paper for students who suffer from Irlen Syndrome, to whatever helps the student overcome his or her disability. While these accomodations are mandated by the federal disabilities act and adhered to by school districts, many students with IEPs will not be accordingly accomodated when it comes to standardized testing for NCLB. For instance, will the student with a reading disability be given extra time? The answer is no. Will a student afflicted with Irlen Syndrome be given a test on an appropriately colored and formatted paper? Once again, the answer is no. This automatically places many IEP students at a significant disadvantage making their chances of passing very slim.

This paragraph also raised another issue for me with regard to testing at grade level. We'll use math as our example since it's one of the subjects targeted by NCLB.

Do you remember when you were in grade school and everyone took math together? Everyone did the same assignments covering the same basic facts. By the time I reached the fourth grade, my school began dividing students up by their ability level. This process, called tracking at the time, continued throughout junior high and by the time we reached high school we had the option of taking algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, etc depending on our desired career path and ability level. My issue is this: If we have all of these students taking different mathematics classes at varying levels of ability, how can we expect to measure their progress with a single standardized test? And to which ability level should that test be directed?

If the test given is the ACT, as it is here in Illinois, the exam covers material ranging from basic algebra through introductory trigonometry. Unless a student has been exposed to this material by the third quarter of their junior year of high school, he/she have no real chance to pass the exam. So the question becomes, what level should the test be directed at? If the level is too high, lower level students and many with IEPs will be unable to pass. However, if the level is set low enough that these students are capable of passing, then the higher level students aren't challenged (and the necessity to teach higher level math classes now becomes diminished) and the data collected becomes useless as it measures nothing of importance.

The only conclusion that can be reached based upon these facts is that a single standardized test is not capable of measuring the progress of every student. Thus rendering NCLB completely ineffective.

The No Child Left Behind Act has great intentions, but intention will not fix the system. Despite its 11,000 pages, NCLB is nothing more than a fancifully named band-aid for a very serious problem.

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