Every April, the hype associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing begins. These tests are also known as the MCA’s, and last for two mornings. Not only are parents bombarded with handouts that contain tips and strategies to help improve their child’s scores, but teachers begin to feel the pressure and stress of needing to “teach to the test.”
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An interview I conducted with an elementary principal, who wished to remain anonymous, offers a glimpse into just how hectic this time of year is for educators.
“Everyone feels tension from the testing,” the principal said. “Teachers are focused on teaching students testing strategies and cramming in information that they think is on the test.”
I’ve gotten the impression that the testing does the opposite of what it’s designed to do. The main focus is to test kids to find out what level they are at so that educators are able to make improvements in their teaching methods or with the curriculum they are using. However, because of the expectation that every student needs to pass, educators are forced to put aside education and teach their students how to pass a test.
“It’s sad when the focus gets taken off of education and instead is placed solely on passing a test. It creates a tense atmosphere with the entire community,” said the principal.
Once test scores have been evaluated, they are released to the public.
“I think it’s good for parents to know how the school scored,” said the principal. “It helps them to feel comfortable with their child’s education. It becomes a problem when the school doesn’t reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).” Parents don’t always understand how the test scores are related to the law, so this can sometimes create confusion. “As a parent of three, NCLB is constantly on my mind, as an educator and a parent.”
It’s too early to tell what the long-term effects of this relatively new law will be, but what is clear is that it creates problems for many school official and educators. Students are expected to take a test that may not be best suited for them.
“Education and knowledge cannot be measured yearly by a standardized test” says the principal.