Standardized testing only leaves children behind
by Joe Buffaloe
No Child Left Behind has a lot in common with the Patriot Act - all name, no substance.
If you vote against the Patriot Act, you're not a patriot. If you vote against No Child Left Behind, you want to abandon cute, doe-eyed little children. Right?
It's disheartening to see the rhetoric from Democrats and Republicans about No Child Left Behind. The furthest any politician will go in his or her criticism is that the program is underfunded. If only that were the problem.
No Child Left Behind is a flawed program that should be discontinued before it bankrupts the U.S. public school system. It relies on test scores to hold teachers accountable for their jobs, to motivate schools to do as well as
The first problem with this is that tests do not make a school better - every minute wasted taking a standardized test is a minute that could be used for productive class time. However, Democrats and Republicans are still pushing for tougher tests, placing more emphasis on their role in our public schools.
Second, tests do not reflect the quality of education at a school. Often, the best teachers are the ones who veer a mile off topic, who teach what they know with passion and excitement. Standardized tests effectively cut them off, reeling them into spending more time teaching what the government says they have to. No matter how many students say they've learned from the teacher, he or she will be judged solely on the results of one test, created by people with no knowledge of the school district or the needs of specific students.
Trust me, teachers have plenty of motivation to teach well without standardized tests. They are college graduates with pride for their field who have spent years studying the latest theories on how best to teach. Many will put in more than 80 hours a week preparing for classes. As my mother says, when summer break comes, it's not so much a break for teachers as a chance for some desperately needed rest - a lot like the offseason for NFL players.
Under the No Child Left Behind system, schools must improve test scores every year, or else they are punished. So, the schools that struggle most are put at a greater disadvantage. In New Mexico, Gov. Richardson has gone even further and forced problem schools to adopt a new state-mandated teaching system. This forces teachers to spend hours on busywork for the government to prove they're doing their jobs - time they could be spending on students.
If education is inadequate in the U.S., the solution isn't more tests. These waste millions of dollars we could be spending on higher teacher salaries, new books and computers and lower tuition at colleges.
If the government wants to improve education, it might want to think about poverty. A 15-year-old kid who supports his family while going to school has a hard time studying, especially if he earns a meager minimum wage at his job. If college is out of his price range, then he has no incentive to beef up his grade point average. If he's unlucky enough to live in a poor area, his school might not have the resources it needs to educate him.
Tests, when it comes down to it, are a way to ignore our real
Will students, or their schools, receive a helping hand from the government anytime soon? The way it looks now, all they'll get is another tall stack of tests.
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