Arg! After spending a good half hour composing a response to Jane Gault's remark
about NCLB, I learn that comments have been turned off!
I agree with Jane that NCLB has been a good thing, but it's a definitely more than some minimum standard to insure funtional literacy and basic math. The TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills), which makes sure that Texas education is aligned to the national standards, requires a much higher level of skills and knowledge than the curriculum did when I was in middle school back in the late 70s and that was in one of the best school districts in the country.
The majority of questions are higher than grade level reading and just a handful of questions are under grade level. They are not designed to test recall of facts or reading comprehension. They require complex cognition tasks on Bloom's Taxonomy
. Knowledge level and comprehension level questions are rare and usually reserved for things like 18th century historical documents and scientific quotations. That means students must have a basic knowlege base in the subject being tested, be able to comprehend the reading passage, and then demostrate critical thinking skills to answer the question correctly.
There is a misperception that students are being taught to the test. The state standards are aligned to NCLB, the district curriculum is aligned to the state standards, which includes both information and skills, and the teacher's job is to teach the curriculum. The TAKS test questions are drawn from the state standards, which is essentially the entire curriculum that the teacher should be teaching.
The math test is completely word based. There is not a single problem that is just numbers and symbols. That's a killer for the students with limited English. It doesn't matter what kind of math whiz a recent Japanese arrival is when they are confronted with a paragraph to read with handful of numbers sprinkled throughout and no hint of what mathematical operations to use, let alone a Hispanic kid without a strong educational background.
Algebra and geometry concepts that were presented to honors students in the 8th & 9th grades and regular students in 9th & 10th grades in my day are now in the regular 7th grade math curriculum because it's on the 7th grade TAKS.
Students routinely write five paragraph papers in Language Arts, science, history, and health to prepare for TAKS, that includes everyone except select special ed students with severe disabilities. Only honors students did that in the 1970s and that was only in English class. Regular students were not required to write more than a paragraph or two here or there until their junior year when they were finally taught how to write an essay.
Today's students are getting the most rigorous schooling of any generation since before the Baby Boomers were taught sight reading with books like 'See Spot Run.' NCLB is designed to prepare all students for the rigor of global competition in the 21st century, not ensuring a funtionally literate and numerate society. Thankfully, we are waaay
One of the main reasons there is so much hostility to NCLB is that teachers don't want to be held accountable to the curriculum because it's not intellectually challenging for them
, creatively fulfilling for them
, or consistent with their
personal educational mission.
For the curious, released TAKS
are available. 7 & 8 th grade both have reading and math tests. The writing test is in the 7th grade; math and science tests are in 8th. Standards are raised every year, so the percentage of students passing has to increase every year and at the same time, the number of correct answers to pass increases.