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Testing        < Previous



Should States Just Opt Out of NCLB

To Get Out From Under These Tests?


Q. I think we should listen to our educators. They say the federal education law, No Child Left Behind, is hurting our schools and dumbing down the curriculum. It is overstandardizing the teaching profession to the point where teachers are more like babysitting bureaucrats. Are they right? Is there any movement to organize and get rid of that law?


One state with a lot of support for that is Arizona. People there are equating No Child Left Behind to a veritable "Grand Canyon" of overregulation and overcomplication of the educational process which is damaging schools. They cite standardized tests that are required by NCLB as making up Exhibit A in the case against continued involvement of local schools with the federal government. Arizona's children test among the lowest in the nation on standardized tests, but that situation is getting worse, not better, at least in the traditional public schools in that state.


There's a move afoot in Arizona to "opt out" of No Child Left Behind. The main purpose? To get out from under what NCLB opponents call "federal micromanagement" of local schools. It would reduce the outside funding on top of local and state taxes that is coming from federal government sources to Arizona schools. But it figures to 2% of the overall state budget. Some Arizonans say that's OK; they're better off without the feds. And, they say, the costs of federal compliance are mighty high, and it would be nice to get out from under them as well.


According to the Arizona-based think tank, the Goldwater Institute, the flaws of NCLB are numerous. The main one, according to that organization, is that the learning "standards" have made school too easy, and there's no incentive to offer more to kids than the bare minimum. The standardized testing component of NCLB, which by definition can't measure artistic output, scientific innovation, hands-on knowledge and skills or other complex but important educational "products," has effectively oversimplified and overregulated learning to the point where it is highly counter-productive, the group says.


A spokesman wrote, "Chief among them is the fact that NCLB creates an entirely perverse incentive for states to lower their academic standards in order to meet a federal goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014."

He cited a recent University of California Berkley study that found that 10 of 12 states studied had "dummied down" their state accountability tests to the point where parents, taxpayers and policymakers are denied the most essential accountability tool of the tax-supported school system - reliable, valid testing data. Arizona parents and taxpayers need reliable testing data.


Fifty years ago, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, whose name the institute bears, opposed the first federal K-12 spending bill, noting that "federal aid to education invariably means federal control of education."


So there's plenty of precedent. Stay tuned to see how far this movement goes, and if it spreads beyond the Grand Canyon State.


Homework: Arizona's Goldwater Institute is one of the best sources of good information and analysis about education issues. Visit their website,


By Susan Darst Williams Testing 11 2008


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