Teaching to the Test or For Disadvantaged Students? (Session 2: Big Picture in US Education)

Urban and Wagoner’s discussion on President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) initiative is very enlightening. As Urban and Wagoner noted, the NCLB act was met with lots of confusion in the public sphere. The act was not signed into law until January 8, 2002 and its primary focus was to standardize student performance to that of their grade level for all students by the year 2014. The NCLB act mandated standardized testing to assess student progress and encouraged students enrolled at lower performing schools to transfer to a school with higher academic achievement levels. What NCLB failed to take into account however, was the varying factors such as socioeconomic status of families, students for whom English was a second language, and the number of students with special needs and the effect these factors have on the academic success of an institution.

According to the article “What the No Child Left Behind law means for your child” found on greatschools.org, the NCLB law is beneficial to students and more restrictive for teachers. The article echoes the sentiments of Urban and Wagoner with regards to benefits for students. Students are able to transfer to higher performing schools if their school is performing at sub-standard levels for two years and if this continues for a third year, the students are entitled to free tutoring provided by the school. This article also expands on the affects on the teachers. “No Child Left Behind” adds a heightened sense of responsibility to what is already a demanding job. In addition to successfully conveying subject material to their students, teachers now face the pressure of making sure their students perform at or above their grade level and excel on standardized tests. The requirements for teachers have also become more rigid and require more education and subject specialization. It is pressures such as these that almost encourage teachers to “teach to the test,” especially considering the schools’ individual abilities to replace teachers who appear ineffective in successfully conveying course material as they see fit.

The article on edweek.org entitled “No Child Left Behind” emphasized that the law was written in an attempt to employ Title I funds to assist disadvantaged students. This is also mentioned by Urban and Wagoner in American Education in the Twenty-First Century. The article also notes that while the law was put into place to assist disadvantaged students and hold the states responsible for the education of their students, the law also had adverse effects. The edweek.org article states that the percentage of schools not meeting the standards for adequate yearly progress increased from 29 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2010.

An article on huffingtonpost.com entitled “States Escaping No Child Left Behind Can Get More Time On Teacher Evaluations,” echoes the sentiment expressed by Urban and Wagoner that the strict guidelines and requirements set about by the NCLB law tend to lead to teachers “teaching to the test.” The article quotes the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, as saying, “”Testing should never be the main focus of our schools … No test can ever measure what a student is, or can be … Testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools.” There seems to be a similar critique throughout the four sources mentioned in this post – there is no real way to measure the academic achievements of students through standardized testing, especially without taking into consideration the circumstances in which the students find themselves.



Below are the additional websites I used in this post:





One thought on “Teaching to the Test or For Disadvantaged Students? (Session 2: Big Picture in US Education)

  1. Austin says:

    Hey Olivia,

    I agree with your post in so many areas. The NCLB wasn’t clear and it put tons of pressure on teachers.I really like your comment about how it is really impossible to look at and compare academic achievement among students due to the various types of students in this country.


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