Saturday, February 04, 2006

Testing industry overwhelmed under NCLB

This news article from USA Today is one from a few days ago that I'm just now getting to. According to a new study the tests that are required by NCLB are in trouble. (Download study here)
The standardized testing industry is "buckling under the weight" of President Bush's education reform plan, with the law's rapidly expanding testing mandates threatening to undermine its high ideals, says a new report out Tuesday from Education Sector, an independent Washington think tank.

Only about $20 of the average $8,000-per-pupil spent on education nationally goes to develop tests under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the report finds. That's a small proportion, given the tests' importance, says Thomas Toch, the report's author.
But the modest spending on testing could pull the rug out, with many states now forced to buy or create hastily developed, low-quality tests that measure only rudimentary skills, Toch says. Such tests make it impossible for high-performing students' scores to rise above a certain level, despite learning more. So low performers' rising scores make it appear as if the nation's "achievement gap" is closing.

"You're giving a skewed sense of student achievement," Toch says.

What's worse, he says, such tests "are encouraging teachers to make the same low-level skills the priorities of their classrooms." Rather than being a solution, he says, such testing is "fast becoming part of the problem in public education."

Toch recommends that the federal government more than double its funding, from $406 million to $860, to help states develop high-quality tests.

For decades, testing companies have sold carefully developed standardized tests to school districts. NCLB's mandates — that virtually every child in grades three through eight in every public school take annual math and reading tests tied to state standards — have forced testing companies to generate "vastly larger pools of credible test questions" on shorter timelines, the report says. Competitive pressures, high turnover and mistakes by testmakers all take their toll, with more requirements on the way.

The study estimates that public schools, which now give about 33.6 million tests under NCLB, must add another 11.4 million by the end of the current school year, straining testmakers.

I ask you, wouldn't this money be better spent on the kids? And things could get worse, according to Jim Horn over at Schools Matter, (look here for more) Tom Delay's replacement, is the one responsible for making the requirements for NCLB so high that virtually all schools will fail by 2014.

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