February 25, 2015


No Child Left Behind and testing help hold schools accountable (PAUL E. PETERSON, 2/25/15, LA Times)

Now, the new Republican Congress is making another effort to revise NCLB,and tests are in the crosshairs. Unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, oppose them for fear the data will be used to evaluate teachers. Conservatives fear tests will be used to impose "progressive" Common Core standards, which are backed by the White House and designed to set the same broad expectations for all U.S. students.

Civil rights groups, on the other hand, are fighting to keep testing in place. "Now is not the time to make a U-turn in holding states and school districts accountable for providing a quality education to all children," declared Nancy Zirkin, executive director of the influential Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 20 organizations.

Her stance is backed by solid research evidence. Summing up the best studies, Martin West, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told a congressional committee in January that NCLB "worked to generate modest improvements in student learning, concentrated in math and among the lowest-performing students -- precisely those on whom the law was focused." In L.A. after the law was implemented, student performance improved between 2003 and 2014 by well over a year's worth of learning in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math.

Testing also remains popular with the public. In 2012, the journal Education Next asked a cross section of the American public whether "the federal government [should] ... require that all students be tested in math and reading each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school." More than 80% of those surveyed responded favorably. In 2014, Education Next asked the public whether it supported "standards for reading and math that are the same across the states [and] will be used to hold public schools accountable for their performance." Only 16% opposed the idea.

In Washington, however, interest-group pressure may matter more than public opinion.

Posted by at February 25, 2015 1:17 PM

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