Myths and Realities about Testing
On Jan. 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This new law embodies his education reform plan and is the most sweeping reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since it was enacted in 1965. The new law redefines the federal government's role in kindergarten-through-grade-12 education. Designed to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers, the new law will change the culture of America's schools so that they define their success in terms of student achievement and invest in the achievement of every child. The act is based on four basic principles: stronger accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, expanded options for parents, and an emphasis on teaching methods that have been proven to work.
The first principle of accountability for results involves the creation of standards in each state for what a child should know and learn in reading and math in grades three through eight. With those standards in place, student progress and achievement will be measured according to state tests designed to match those state standards and given to every child, every year.
The new law will empower parents, citizens, educators, administrators and policymakers with data from those annual assessments. The data will be available in annual report cards on school performance and on statewide progress. They will give parents information about the quality of their children's schools, the qualifications of their teachers, and their children's progress in key subjects. The tests will give teachers and principals information about how each child is performing and help them to diagnose and meet the needs of each student. They will also give policymakers and leaders at the state and local levels critical information about which schools and school districts are succeeding and why, so this success may be expanded and any failures addressed.
Still there are many misconceptions about these annual assessments. The following will explain the role of these new state tests in improving student achievement and address some of the misunderstandings about the changes to come.
The U.S. Department of Education wants to be a partner with states and school districts and a resource for families and community members. If you have additional questions about testing or about other features of the new law, we encourage you to visit our Web site at www.ed.gov or call us at 1-800-USA-LEARN.
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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