The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002 was the apotheosis of the standards-assessments-accountability movement, which had been building for about two decades.
Some loved it, believing this latest reauthorization of the LBJ-era Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) finally put the spotlight on high-need kids and our nation’s ongoing inability to provide them with a great education. Advocates point to the steady closing of the achievement gap during the law’s period of influence as evidence that it was producing the results desired.
But many others viewed NCLB as the ultimate distortion of K–12 accountability. It emanated from Washington, unrealistically aspired to 100 percent proficiency, labeled too many schools “in need of improvement,” and—sin of all sins—was obsessed with assessments.
If NCLB represented the farthest point of the testing pendulum’s swing to the right, many forces beyond gravity alone are now pulling it leftward.
Congress’s inability to reauthorize the law (now about seven years late) is a clear indication that many members are uncomfortable with the law’s contours.
The “opt-out” movement, whereby parents decide to free their students from the administration of ESEA-related tests, shows that, at least to some degree, families have misgivings about assessments.
And in a growing number of states—most recently in Tennessee—legislators are moving to end their relationships with the two Common Core–aligned assessment consortia.
If the success of tactics and short-term wins are the measuring stick, the anti-testing crowd has reason to celebrate. They appear to be ascendant....