Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

How well are they really doing?

Cindy Lutenbacher
Educator and Parent, Comment [sent to the NY Times):

I've been waiting for you to understand that these standardized tests are fraudulent and harmful, unable to tell us anything of value about the education our kids are receiving, and, yes, that judgment includes the NAEP. Standardized tests do not tell us what things kids have learned, what they are capable of doing, or how well they are likely to do in the future. They do not tell us how well teachers are teaching or how strong a school is. They tell us one thing only: the wealth of a child's parents.

So you want even more standardization, as today's editorial proclaims. NYT, you blew it on the war upon Iraq and you are blowing it on this issue. Time to wake up.


Congress has several concerns as it moves toward reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Whatever else they do, lawmakers need to strengthen the requirement that states document student performance in yearly tests in exchange for federal aid.

The states have made a mockery of that provision, using weak tests, setting passing scores low or rewriting tests from year to year, making it impossible to compare progress — or its absence — over time.

The country will have difficulty moving ahead educationally until that changes.

Most states that report strong performances on their own tests do poorly on the more rigorous and respected National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is often referred to as NAEP and is also known as the nation̢۪s report card. That test is periodically given to a sample of students in designated grades in both public and private schools. States are resisting the idea of replacing their own tests with the NAEP, arguing that the national test is not aligned to state standards. But the problem is that state standards are generally weak, especially in math and science.

That point was made yet again in a study of gender differences in math performance published last month in Science magazine. The study, which examined standardized test scores for about seven million students in 10 states, found no gender differences. But the state math tests turned out to be terribly watered-down when it came to testing the problem-solving skills that are crucial in science and engineering.

Analyzing test items on a four-level scale, with level one being the least challenging, the researchers found that most state tests had no questions at the third for fourth levels at all. Worse, the teachers may be dropping more challenging math course work to focus on the low-level material covered in state tests.

That̢۪s bad news, especially when the United States is already losing ground to other nations in the crucial areas of math and science.

Congress needs to take the testing issue head-on. It should instruct the NAEP board, an independent body created by the government, to create a rigorous test that would be given free to states that agreed to use NAEP scoring standards. Then the federal government could actually embarrass the laggard states by naming the ones that cling to weak tests. Without rigorous and consistent testing, there is no way to know whether our children are getting the education they deserve and need.

— Editorial
New York Times


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.