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Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind FAQ's: Testing

No Child Left Behind includes many new responsibilities and requirements for states, school districts, and schools. The law also includes new rights and responsibilities for children who attend public schools that receive Title I funds and their parents.

These "Frequently Asked Questions" from the No Child Left Behind website at www.nclb.gov will answer many of your questions about the following topics:

Testing

36. What effect will testing have on my child?
37. Will the results of my child's test be private?
38. Some people say that testing will make teachers "teach to the test." Are those people right?
39. Will testing help teachers?
40. What about principals? Will testing help them?
41. Reading and math and eventually science will be tested. What about other subjects?
42. Who will pay for these tests?
43. What if I want to home school my child? Does the new law require tests at home?
44. What is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and what is its purpose?

36. What effect will testing have on my child?

For some parents, testing causes stress and anxiety. But in reality, children have always been assessed throughout the year to ensure they know the academic content taught in the classroom. Testing once a year using a standardized test gives an independent insight into the school's progress in order to ensure that your child isn't left behind or trapped in a failing school before it is too late to face the real tests in life. Handled by the school, testing becomes a normal, expected way of assessing whether curriculum has been taught.

37. Will the results of my child's test be private?

Absolutely. Only you and the school will get to see how your child is improving and progressing. Although states and districts will release report cards on their student test results, individual student scores will not be made public.

38. Some people say that testing will make teachers "teach to the test." Are those people right?

No Child Left Behind does not encourage teachers to cover the exact test questions. The state tests are expected to measure the state's academic standards. The material should be taught in the classroom. If teachers cover the subject matter required by the standards and teach it well, students should do well on the test. It's like taking a driver's test. The instructor covers all the important content the state wants you to know and much more.

Many of the nation's best schools and those improving the fastest don't just think testing is important. They think that without it, improving education would be impossible. Don McAdams, a member of the Houston Independent School District Board of Education, says: "School systems and schools exist to educate students. The core activity is teaching and learning. How can a school system or a school continuously improve if it does not measure growth in student achievement? As quality management teaches: What you value, you measure; what you measure, you get. It is almost inconceivable that a school system would not want to know the answer to the most fundamental of all questions: Are the children learning?"

39. Will testing help teachers?

Annual testing tells teachers the strengths and weaknesses of every child. With this knowledge, teachers can craft lessons to make sure each student meets or exceeds state standards. It also tells the teacher if he or she has been effective teaching particular content. If your child's teacher is spending weeks before the test cramming in material, that is a sign that the curriculum at your child's school may not be aligned with the academic standards being tested.

40. What about principals? Will testing help them?

Absolutely. Annual tests show principals exactly how much progress each teacher's students have made, so they can make good decisions about program selection, curriculum arrangement, and professional development. Along with other provisions in No Child Left Behind, they'll have the information and the freedom to get funding for exactly what teachers need to meet the needs of every child.

41. Reading and math and eventually science will be tested. What about other subjects?

No Child Left Behind doesn't require annual statewide testing of other subjects, but that doesn't mean your state won't test history, geography, or writing skills, for example. Many states recognize how important it is to measure whether the schools are getting results in every academic area and to make sure parents aren't disappointed with their child's education. Reading and math are key to the mastery of all other subjects and to a child's success in life. That's why No Child Left Behind focuses on those subjects.

42. Who will pay for these tests?

No Child Left Behind authorized $387 million for states to develop and administer the tests. Many states began this process years ago using state funds.

43. What if I want to home school my child? Does the new law require tests at home?

Nothing in the No Child Left Behind Act affects a home school or permits any Federal control over any aspect of a home school, whether that home school is treated as a home school or a private school under state law. Students who are home-schooled are not required to take any test referenced in the law.

44. What is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and what is its purpose?

NAEP tests are administered to a sample of students in each state from a variety of backgrounds to get an overall picture of a state's progress. Beginning with the 2002-2003 school year, the Department of Education will pay for your state to participate in the NAEP reading and math assessments for fourth and eighth grade students every two years. That way you'll know how your state is comparing with others.

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