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NCLB: How Will Kids Be Tested?
by Suzanne Whitney, Research Editor



Note: Congress has reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the statute formerly known as No Child Left Behind. The new statute, Every Student Succeeds Act, was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015.


A psychologist writes:

I have a question about NCLB. As I read it, all kids need to be on grade level as measured by the statewide assessments. As a psychologist, I don't get it.

1) Grade equivalents are not valid.

2) Students' scores on the state assessment will be compared to all the other students who took the test and they will become the normative sample.

So, 50% of kids will be above average and 50% will be below average. States and districts will use the same norms for years which will give the false impression that kids are making progress. When the test is re-normed we will be in the same situation, 50% above, 50% below.

With this in mind, what are we (educators) supposed to do? It seems as though President Bush has been visiting Lake Wobegon! Please help me understand this in a future issue.

I have been following your NCLB discussion closely. This is a big topic and my employer has not given us any info. I really appreciate your handouts for teachers and administrators and for parents.

BTW: I cannot believe how much I am enjoying your two books. I even have one set at home and one at work!

Answer from Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

No Child Left Behind requires that all children will test as proficient or advanced on state tests of math, reading and science by the 2013-2014 school year.

In the meantime, the gains that the school and school district must make between now and 2014 are broken up into equal increments for different groups of children, including children who are most often left behind. Schools and school districts must break out and report the test scores for the following subgroups:

  • school as a whole
  • children with disabilities
  • children learning English
  • minority children
  • children from low income families

Each group must make this increment of progress each year. This is called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP).

Schools will have to ensure that children at the lowest levels make the greatest gains every year if they are to reach the goal of teaching all children to read at grade level by 2014.

Proficiency Tests

These tests measure the child's performance against state proficiency standards, not against the performance of other students. States will use the proficiency levels (the equivalent of average grade level [Section 1111(b)(1)(D)(ii))(II)]) that they have already set for their state proficiency tests. This will remain constant.

I am surprised that your employer is not educating staff about No Child Left Behind - in addition to requirements about teaching children to read, write and do math, the law includes substantial benefits for people who work in schools.

Benefits of NCLB

NCLB includes a great deal of money to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and principals (i.e., bonuses and stipends). Funds are available for professional development programs and to train staff in research based educational strategies and methods. Scholarships are available for graduate school.

Here are some resources that you can use to learn more about the requirements and benefits of the No Child Left Behind Act.

No Child Left Behind - This NCLB site includes lots of fact sheets about different issues; they publish a free newsletter too.

Standards & Assessments- Non-Regulatory Draft Guidance (published by U. S. Department of Education in March 2003). Includes frequently asked questions about academic standards, academic assessments, issues related to testing special populations (children with disabilities, children learning English).

Improving Teacher Quality State Grants, Title II, Draft Non-Regulatory Guidance (U.S. Department of Education). Includes dozens of frequently asked questions and answers; excellent resource for school personnel.

No Child Left Behind Info Page - articles, news, frequently asked questions at

Coming Soon - Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind

You wrote that you enjoy the Wrightslaw books. Read Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind by Pete Wright, Pam Wright and Sue Whitney Heath. Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind includes the full text of the NCLB statute, regulations, and resources. As a newsletter subscriber, you will receive a special pre-publication offer on the book.

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.

More articles by Sue:

Getting Help for Children with Reading Problems

Research-Based Reading Instruction

Exit Exams Can Be Optional If You Plan Ahead

A Parent's Guide to No Child Left Behind

No Child Left Behind: What Teachers, Principals & School Administrators Need to Know

High Stakes! Can the School Use a Single Test to Retain My Child?

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