Whether you agree or disagree with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), one thing we can all agree on, it has fundamentally changed the way our teachers teach today. Schools and districts that fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward statewide proficiency goals are identified for Program Improvement (PI) under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and are subject to improvement and corrective action measures. The schools will be required to implement certain federal and state programs limiting what teachers and administrators can implement on their own.
With so much riding on the results of the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) tests, teachers feel a need to “teach to the test”. This year the district began a benchmark testing program. Benchmark tests are designed to simulate the content on STAR tests. Teachers try to duplicate the atmosphere of taking the “Big Test”. This helps diagnose students’ weaknesses and helps teachers restructure their lesson plans to better prepare students for the STAR tests. Benchmarks help teachers determine which students need help and where instruction should be focused. One advantage of these tests is that they can be fine tuned by teachers and will improve the diagnostic abilities over time.
Students usually take “End-of-chapter” tests provided by the textbook publishers. These are taken at the end of a chapter or a group of chapters and are a good indicator of how well the student is learning the content in the book. Too often the content in the textbooks doesn't match the content on the STAR tests. Currently teachers are administering both the benchmark tests and the textbook tests.
Several teachers made their concerns known at last week’s board meeting that the number of tests they have to give is drastically reducing the amount of instructional time they have. Some teachers reported it is more difficult for them to get their students motivated for the “Big Test” when they are having so many “Big Tests”. Doing well on the STAR test will insure that our administrators and teachers will be free from additional government interference and will keep more control at the local level.
The benchmark tests, in my opinion, are important and should improve our children’s chances of doing well but it is also important to not abandoned everything else, the textbook material is still important. Maybe the number of textbook tests could be reduced. I think our teachers are in the best position to determine the proper mix of testing and could come together and present the board a plan.
I understand why the administration and the board must set the standards but I’d like to see them continue to expand the influence teachers have over what is happening in our classrooms. They keep telling us that we have the best teachers and I agree. Recently the board has listened to teacher input regarding technology investments and kindergarten scheduling. I think we will be better off if we leave the teaching to the teachers and administration to the administrators.
Here are a few links I suggest:
Wikipedia – No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
California Dept of Education – Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR)
California Dept of Education – Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
California Dept of Education – Program Improvement (PI)