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NCLB Outrages

Standardized tests can send students who fail into tailspin

Ohanian Comment: I've sat in on classes at Dan Drmacich's school, and I've talked to parents and students. It's a school that nurture's students and teaches them well.

Comments from Annie:

This thoughtful review of the NY Regents test and supporting education process pertains to every state in compliance with NCLB policy.

Simply substitute your state’s name for “Regent” and the following list (excerpts from the essay by Dan Drmacich, principal, School Without Walls in the Rochester School; Standardized tests can send students who fail into tailspin) provides a perfect data sheet for advocacy against NCLB reauthorization.

From the essay:

The purpose of testing should be to help students grow academically, not to coerce higher test performances through public scrutiny and humiliation.

Volumes of research prove that subjective teacher assessment is a much more accurate predictor of student success than any single standardized test score.

The goal of having all students score above average on any standardized test is impossible.

Ironically, the very tests used by our state to measure student results prevent equality of performance.

Standardized test scores do not give the public an accurate picture of how well schools are preparing students as citizens and leaders.

The emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing is creating a culture of failure among many students, especially in urban areas.

Students who are poor, who are from English-as-a-second-language families, who have special education needs, who desire to have a vocational education or who have unique interests or learning styles, have suffered under the one-size-fits-all Regents education process. Even those students who do well on Regents tests suffer because they are often denied the opportunities to focus their studies on areas of personal interest, citizenship and other lifelong-learning skills.

by Dan Drmacich

The drumbeat of our state Regents testing policy and our federal No Child Left Behind Act echoed loud and clear in the Democrat and Chronicle's Sept. 22 and Oct. 12 stories on test results. Reading between the lines of the scoring data and accompanying stories of how schools are focusing their curricula to help students pass Regents tests leads me to several critical conclusions:

  • Students in families with higher family incomes generally have higher test scores than those from poorer families. One of the many critical reports substantiating this conclusion is the 2003 Metropolitan Life Teacher Assessment that low-income children have at least 16 critical variables to deal with that negatively impact test scores. These include family dysfunction and children entering kindergarten with low vocabulary levels.

    Instead of requiring the same levels of testing performance from all students and publicly ranking schools that have minimal control over testing outcomes, wouldn't it make more sense for the state and federal governments to promote individual student growth and development? This change could be partially accomplished by never making test results public. The purpose of testing should be to help students grow academically, not to coerce higher test performances through public scrutiny and humiliation.

    State and federal education departments also need to rely on more authentic, valid assessments, such as the number of books students comprehend, oral presentation results and portfolio demonstrations. Volumes of research prove that subjective teacher assessment is a much more accurate predictor of student success than any single standardized test score.


  • The goal of having all students score above average on any standardized test is impossible. Few educators, politicians and even Board of Regents members understand that test writers construct standardized tests for the purpose of creating a wide range of scores, with roughly half the test takers scoring above average and the other half below. One might conclude that the public has been snookered into believing that education reform through testing will lead to more students scoring above average on state tests. Ironically, the very tests used by our state to measure student results prevent equality of performance.


  • Standardized test scores do not give the public an accurate picture of how well schools are preparing students as citizens and leaders. Many New York state citizens who were poor test-takers have had successful college careers and hold prominent professional positions. Others have gone on to successful vocational careers and demonstrated success as leaders, parents and neighbors. Research has shown that success is not so dependent on IQ as it is upon an individual's EQ (emotional quotient). Characteristics, impossible to measure on standardized tests, such as leadership, perseverance, listening skills and compassion, are far more accurate predictors of success. More than 700 colleges have recognized this research, and consequently made the Scholastic Aptitude Tests optional for student admission.


  • The emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing is creating a culture of failure among many students, especially in urban areas. Imagine for a moment how a student might feel with a curriculum dominated by test preparation, a routine many students find not very interesting. Also, consider how some students might feel after their low test scores are shared and compared publicly to those of higher-scoring students. Some students may be learning to feel hopeless.


  • Students who are poor, who are from English-as-a-second-language families, who have special education needs, who desire to have a vocational education or who have unique interests or learning styles, have suffered under the one-size-fits-all Regents education process. Even those students who do well on Regents tests suffer because they are often denied the opportunities to focus their studies on areas of personal interest, citizenship and other lifelong-learning skills.

    Each person who agrees should voice his or her concerns to school district officials, state and federal representatives. Only through active citizenship can we create an education system that truly meets the needs of our students and our society.

    Drmacich is principal, School Without Walls in the Rochester School District.E-mail him at Daniel.Drmacich@RCSDK12.org.

    — Dan Drmacich
    Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
    2006-10-18


    INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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