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[Susan notes: Monty Neill warns that under NCLB, small schools could become little more than small test-prep centers.


Published in Education Week

To the editor

Testing Juggernaut Puts

Small Schools at Risk

To the Editor:

Well-designed and -run small schools offer a high-quality educational experience for many children ("High Schools Nationwide Paring Down," June 16, 2004). But with the onslaught of the No Child Left Behind Act’s testing regimen, coupled with state- and district-mandated exams, small schools could become little more than small test- prep centers.

Even the strongest small schools are at risk from the testing juggernaught. At legislative hearings in New York, students and faculty members eloquently explained how focusing on the state Regents exams forces their schools to change both what and how they teach. As a result, institutions that graduate low-income students at very high rates, send most of them on to college, and find that most succeed may be forced to change what works or to close their doors.

Promoters of small schools frequently explain that their goal is not "smallness for smallness’ sake." Instead, they are pursuing smallness to promote richer learning outcomes. This goal cannot be met if narrow tests are the sole arbiters of educational quality. Accountability must be transformed to become a tool for promoting high-quality schools of all forms, not just standardized classrooms driven in lock step by one-size-fits-all tests.

Monty Neill, FairTest

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