I've been reading about No Child Left Behind. It seems like a fairly well-considered plan, all in all. However, there seem to be two major problems.
First, the mandate came from the Feds with little or no funding. As a result, the NEA, with support from many states, has filed suit against the US Department of Education, claiming that the Federal government should fund Federal mandates. Makes sense to me.
Second, although the goals of the program are lofty (making sure that all schools are "accountable" and that all students recieve a good education), it seems that all of these goals are going to be achieved through an increase in standardized testing.
Standardized testing has many problems, but allow me to point to a few. First, standardized testing resembles no activity in real life. Who has a job in the real world where they sit and fill in dots with a Number 2 pencil? Therefore, it doesn't teach any life skills, other than test taking, which is fu**ing goofy in my book.
As a result, we're going to see students who are very good at filling in lots of dots without knowing how to, for example, construct a simple bibliography.
The other issue is that only a small percentage of the population is good at standardized testing. Most students that I have seen immediately equate standardized testing with FAILING. That's been their experience in the past, so it becomes the present and future for them as well.
And I can understand. I have 11 years of college and can decipher all kinds of code/ texts written today or long ago. But when I read sample questions from standardized tests, I often become confused and agitated: "Do they mean this?" I think to myself. "Or not?" "Does the meaning of the question all hang on one word, or am I making it more complicated?"
Now I feel stupid.
Let's give standardized tests (at the high school senior level) to 100 random adults (college grads, even) and see how well they do. I'll bet many of them fail or at least struggle--even as they are otherwise successful in their professional lives. Better yet, let's give the test to Mr. Bush (since this is his plan) and see how well he does. I'll bet he gets stressed out and does poorly.
All this tells me that standardized tests are not very good barometers at measuring overall student performance.
In my opinion, too much emphasis on standardized testing will give this country a false sense that students are getting better and smarter, when in reality, they are only getting better at test taking and are ultimately less prepared for the real world.