Sunday, June 29, 2008

NCLB Failure In Georgia

No Child Left Behind, as I'm sure most of my readers will agree, is a complete mess. In Georgia, the government school kids have to take the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Test) in grades 3, 5, and 8. The idea is that if the child doesn't pass, then he is not to be promoted to the next grade.

In talking with other moms in my neighborhood, I have heard story after story of kids not being able to sleep or eat because they are so worried about this test. Third graders. The 8 year old daughter of an acquaintance had a complete breakdown one morning (the test takes several days to administer) and was simply hysterical. Mom sent her to take the test anyway because she didn't know what might happen to her daughter if she missed a test day. (I don't know either.) Parents I've spoken with are frustrated at the amount of homework, repeated drills, and emphasis on this test. Some schools in my area have little or no recess for elementary kids. Recess takes time away from studying for this test. The Test is all-important.

CRCT is the way in which government school children in Georgia show "competency" in the 3 Rs and then some--social studies and science for the older children. Then schools are measured to find out how successful they are in cramming information into the kids. Chances are given to improve; money is taken away after too many chances. This is NCLB.

The AJC (registration required) ran an article yesterday in which it is revealed that the majority of students who fail the CRCT are promoted to the next grade anyway.

Students are supposed to pass math and reading tests in eighth and fifth grades, and reading in third grade, to move up. For those CRCTs, the newspaper found 10 to 20 percent of students failed on their first try in 2006 and 2007.

But only a small percentage were ultimately retained: 2.5 percent of eighth-grade testers, 1.7 percent of fifth-graders, and 2.9 percent of third-graders.

. . .

In 2007, for instance, 92 percent of the nearly 9,500 eighth-graders who couldn't pass the math CRCT were promoted.

What, then, is the point? Is it worth the stress and heartache, putting these kids through these tests? What a waste.

Even more concerning to me is the fact that these kids are learning a terrible lesson about standards, since they ultimately don't have to meet them. The teachers and parents and government officials talk talk talk about standards, threaten to hold them back a grade if they don't meet them, teach nothing that is outside the test so that the maximum number of kids can pass. And then promote most of them anyway. Or just change the test when only about 30% of kids manage to pass.

What must these kids be thinking, about standards and about these adults who are paying lip service to them? The smart ones will clue into the fact that they'll get promoted anyway and stop stressing about the tests, I suppose. Our supposed standards will be lowered repeatedly until they are laughably easy or eliminated altogether. Somehow, I don't think the NCLB money will go away.

Stress and worry. Mixed messages. "Standards" that change according to the whims of the educators.

Really, the whole NCLB thing is quite ridiculous. I've thought that from the get-go. But now I think it's downright dangerous. Sadly, I fear that no matter who gets the White House this November, it's not going away any time soon.


objectivistDad said...

The fundamental problem with NCLB is that it shifted focus further away from kids who perform well, and more toward kids who don't. That's no surpize, since the name "NCLB" say it all: John Rawls himself could not have come up with a better mantra.

I pity the kids who are tense about failing the test. However, not so much because they have to take the test. I pity any child whose education is so bad that he thinks he might not pass one of those tests.

TJWelch said...

To bypass registration at the AJC site, login under e-mail address with password bselig (courtesy of

Kim said...

It's difficult. For those people who are outsourcing their child's education, they do need a measure of that success, even if it's a failure. That the children are upset probably has more to do with how the test is presented by the teachers. I remember preparing for tests but not having any clue if they were super-important.

That being said, my daughter really seems to hate tests. I think it has more to do with me than the test itself.

Those poor kids are being worked into a frenzy by the school and the teachers.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Having standards for education is a good thing. I do not know one private school that does not have them. But measuring standards by subjecting students to standardized tests is not a good thing. These tests are going for the lowest common denominator--put the right answer in the blank and don't think too much. Thinking is bad, being able to bubble in a simplistic answer is good. Believe you me, the prep schools that prepare children for the Ivy League do not test this way!

About the child who broke down. Nothing would have happened to he if she did not take the test. Parents can, and do, excuse their kids from these tests. The tests are not about the individual child or about individual progress; the NCLB tests are meant to measure the effectiveness of the school's methodology. (The salient question is of course whether that methodology has anything to do with educating independent minds). Prior to finally threatening a lawsuit and removing my son from school, I did excuse him from the NCLB tests. I got a lot of phone calls, hype and other BS, but I persisted. You see, I had been a teacher in the district, and I had proctored these ridiculously poorly designed tests. The school people knew that I knew that they had nothing to do with learning, nor would they tell me anything much about my son's "educational profile."

I'm with Jim DeLisle, who opined that if we made Congress take tests of educational progress under the same conditions as the kids--e.g. no Starbucks, sitting for hours with no chance to go to the bathroom, being subjected to arcane terminology in place of demonstrating real skills (what the hell is a dipthong anyway?)--then we'd not only see that Congress is not making adequate yearly progress, but also the whole system would be dismantled in short order.

Rational Jenn said...

Thanks for your comments, all.

The whole thing is really a mess. I agree with you, EHL--standards are necessary, but the approach is horrible. It's as if it's been designed to bring out the worst in everyone. Next time it comes up (if it does), I'll mention that it's possible to get a child out of taking the test. (Some of my neighbors are reluctant to discuss such things with me because they know we are homeschooling.)

One thing we plan to teach around here: THINKING! :o)