Tis the season to be testing
In years past, during this happy season, students and teachers were thinking of sugar plums and Santa Claus, of holidays and Christmas, of bowl games and New Year’s parties.
But not anymore.
These days, in high schools throughout Alabama, seniors settle down, not for a long winter’s nap, but for a long week of testing. They take the High School Graduation Exam, the test that overrides all else they have done, the test that determines whether or not they graduate. Talk about pressure.
And not just on the seniors. Because No Child Left Behind mandates that students be tested regularly, state school officials have decided that this test will be used to satisfy NCLB demands.
Makes sense, huh? Use a test that is already in place, rather than a new one. Let’s give an “atta boy” to the folks who came up with that.
But not to the folks who picked Harcourt Assessment Inc. to score the results of the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test taken last April — another of the many tests to which students are subjected. Harcourt Assessment messed up, scoring around 2,500 tests incorrectly, which means that some schools that thought they were clear and free might learn that they did not make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP, to folks on the inside) and could face sanctions under No Child Left Behind.
Not that it will make much difference, for as we were told, along with the good and the bad of testing comes the ugly. According to an Associated Press report, unless NCLB is changed, by 2014, when students in our schools are required to be 100 percent proficient in math and reading, even our best schools won’t be.
If one kid drops the ball, one student slips up, one subgroup comes up short, a school fails.
If there has ever been a classic example of lockstep, one-size-fits-all, individuality-out-the-door, ideological gobbledygook, this is it. If, indeed, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, No Child Left Behind is educational asphalt.
But there is hope.
Between now and 2014, when the hammer falls, the law must be reauthorized at least three times. That gives reasonable people three chances to change things.
And during that time, there will be at least four elections, which will give reasonable people four chances to vote out the folks who gave us this and put sensible people in their place.
In theory, No Child Left Behind makes only a little sense. In practice, it makes even less.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES