The bill�s basic mechanism is to set standards and then test to see if schools are meeting them. Not surprisingly the two most contended parts of the policy are standards and testing, and that is where most of the research has been done.
Standards are supposed to spell out simply and clearly precisely what students whould understand and be able to do at the end of each year. However, most of the standards include too much material to be feasible and are too vague about what students should understand. William Schmidt, who studies education systems in �competing� first-world countries explains, �We're, for example, at eighth-grade telling teachers to teach 35 topics. Other countries are telling their teachers to teach 10 to 15. So there's one aspect of it. But secondly, the standards themselves are often times not very clear or focused, so that a teacher could say, �Of course, I cover that.� And in some sense, they do. But they're over on this corner of it, versus the real depth of the standard, which is over here.� For example a standard may say "Students will understand historical events in the twentieth century," leaving a teacher to wonder whether students should merely be able to list the events, or be able to offer illustrative accounts of each. In sixth-grade Social Studies, teachers are supposed to cover world history from the agricultural revolution through the Rennaissance, about seven thousand years including the incredibly dense cultural innovations of irrigation, myth, writing, democracy, literature, philosophy, the scientific method, and guns. Amy Wilkins of The Education Trust explains the way the standards were created, �in general, there were very open processes, with lots of people, mathematicians, parents, all sorts of people deciding what kids should know and be able to do. And they produced these very thick documents, and sort of threw them at teachers and said, �Here, do this,�� As a result, the standards are not as clear or focused as many had hoped.
When the standards are so impossible to cover and vague, the standardized tests used to measure them become the guide for classroom instruction. In such cases, teachers must �teach to the test,� perhaps the most prevalent problem with No Child Left Behind.

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This page contains a single entry by published on November 18, 2003 10:47 PM.

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