One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Problems With NCLB

In a stack of papers called Testing.

  • Jan
  • 28
  • 2007

There’s a large problem with the English California Standards Tests (CST). These tests come to students every year around April and are the result of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). [Update: This same problem applies to Social Science since those questions are handed out by grade level, not be course enrolled in.]

The English CSTs count for a large percentage in the measure of a school meeting yearly goals, somewhere near 30% of a school’s Annual Performance Indicator (API) score (good luck “Understanding the API”, a calculation that has changed each year it’s been in effect). I wrote about this last year, but felt this deserves its own post in order to call this trouble to your attention:

  1. Plenty of students take the test without exposure to the standards assessed.


This is not a question of teachers not teaching the standards. This is about students who repeat a course, are English Learner (EL) students, or are special education students. Look around your school. A lot of students likely fall into at least one of those three populations.

Any student who is a junior will receive the Grade 11 CST booklet during the STAR test. The CST booklet is handed out according to the grade level of the student, not the English class that student is enrolled in. That’s a huge problem.

English standards are broken into two sets: one set of 62 standards for grades 9/10 and another set of 54 standards for grades 11/12. The CSTs for grades 9 and 10 do not assess different standards, so freshmen are expected to be exposed to all 62 of those standards by April of their first year in high school. Just a statement of fact, you make your own judgment about that.

Any junior sitting in English 2 has not been exposed to the 11/12 standards. Any junior EL student sitting in Language Arts 2 has not been exposed to the 11/12 standards. Any junior special education student sitting in English 3 may not have been exposed to the 11/12 standards, depending on what his IEP says.

Yet all three of those students will be handed the (often) pink Grade 11 booklet in April and expected to make sense out of material they have never been directly taught. Even though that deficiency is for completely legitimate reasons, schools will be held “accountable” for those students not scoring at proficient or above.

This is a problem with a one-size-fits-all solution like NCLB and the way it’s been implemented (and by all accounts will be implemented into the future). This is one direct response to what Dan and Eric have written. I have lots of reasons to dislike NCLB, but this is one reason very specific to English courses.

Comments are closed.