The No Child Left Behind Act and Standardized Testing:
State, National, and International
American Education has been a work in progress for the past century and a half. To measure its progress, successes, and failings, there are standardized tests. These tests have been used to compare schools, states, and nations. The key subjects being tested as a universal measure are mathematics, reading, and science. To help improve the scores on these tests, the United States put into law the No Child Left Behind act in 2001. When mention of this act is made, it brings several serious questions to mind. What is the No Child Left Behind act? What is it doing for our education system on a local, national and international scale? And how does it relate to standardized testing?
The purpose of the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB) is to hold schools accountable for the performance of its students. This accountability is based on whether or not the schools, districts and states are making adequate yearly progress (AYP). This encompasses all students, including those from disadvantaged economic backgrounds, students with disabilities, students from minority ethnic or racial groups and those with limited English proficiency. This progress is in accordance with the national goal of having 100 percent of students reach academic proficiency by the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
To reach this goal, NCLB includes laws that require schools to focus on the specific subjects of math, reading and science, particularly in grades 3-10. This attention is meant to boost the performance of students in those areas. What it means for the schools is that if they do not meet AYP that funding may be withheld from school programs and the teachers may come under scrutiny. This is all part of the effort to encourage improvement within the American public school system. A pointed question would be: is it working? One of the purposes of standardized testing is to answer that question.
In the U.S. today, there is a great deal of emphasis being placed on children passing the many standardized tests that have been imposed. By means of standardization, education can now be weighed and have its progress tracked. The performance of students is now a matter of numbers and statistics.
The most ambitious form of standardized testing as a form of comparison is the Program for International Student Assessment or PISA. This international testing includes 60 nations belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and ranks the performance of 15-year-old students in the core subjects. When the results of the 2009 PISA testing were released, the United States was faced with the harsh reality that our students are falling behind. American students placed 14th in reading literacy, which shows no improvement since 2000, 25th in mathematics, which is still below average, and 17th place in scientific literacy which was an improvement from the below average...