• by Kathryn Brown • IDRA Newsletter • January 2005
Put aside for a moment the many arguments about how the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) calls for lofty goals but provides inadequate funding – leaving schools scrambling for resources and undermining teacher and student efforts as students fall short of standardized test requirements and schools fail to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP).
Put aside the fact that the federal government recently cut funding for the NCLB Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program by $200 million on top of another more than $100 million cut to other federal education grant programs, such as Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) Program, Community Technology Centers, and Star Schools.
Instead, bring forward our children. Bring forward their education and visionary ways of teaching our students by enthusiastic teachers who propel students’ potential to new heights. Bring forward what is required for all our children to succeed and have opportunities before them in a world that requires them to be expert thinkers and complex communicators (Bautz, 2004).
Hold this vision in your mind and do not let it go as we explore the conflict that NCLB causes between standardized testing and technology integration into the curricula and ways to resolve this conflict.
New Technology Standards
Many have experienced how powerful a tool technology can be. This is clear when someone is researching a topic online, exploring dynamic sets of data, accessing amazing amounts of information in libraries and databases, and creating masterpieces of work that were unheard-of five years ago. Signed into law in 2001, NCLB recognizes the potential of technology in our children’s’ education.
This section of NCLB is referred to as the EETT program. Its principal goal is to “improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in elementary and secondary schools.”
The EETT program also aims to assist in making every student technologically literate by the end of his or her eighth grade year and ensuring effective technology integration by teachers who have attended professional development that incorporates research-based instructional models.
This part of NCLB is not a far reach from the Technology Applications Standards for Texas where students and teachers, from grades K-12, must move from the basic uses of technology to in-depth integration for researching and obtaining information in many formats, solving complex problems and communicating complex solutions.
Looking through this angle of the lens, one might think this is a huge improvement from the standards that were required in our parents’ or our own K-12 educational experiences. However, this is not so. Removing the gauze and seeing the NCLB and the Texas provisions for what they are reveals otherwise.
Limitations of High-Stakes Testing
Both NCLB and Texas call for standardized testing and holding children accountable for falling short of these “standards” or “expectations.” NCLB requires standardized testing for students in grades three through eight. In Texas, the standards are the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and the way of assessing whether or not a child has met these standards is by using the measurement tool, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS).
On one hand, both NCLB and the TEKS expect teachers to infuse technology in ways that guide, empower, and prepare students for our exponentially growing technological world. On the other hand, they limit assessment of student knowledge and acquisition of these skills to a standardized test that reduces solutions to choices A, B, C, or D.
Holding students and teachers to these double standards sends conflicting messages. The standardized testing and the technology integration expectations for students and teachers are in conflict with one another. One cannot turn a blind eye to the wonder, creativity, exploration, and revelations that students experience when teachers have integrated various technology tools in their classrooms, by dismissing all this when it comes to a school’s AYP.
How can we reduce ourselves and for a moment believe that the wonderful promises that technology tools bring to students in learning and exploring their own ideas and thoughts can be simply assessed by a standardized test? How can we reduce education to such simplicity when we know the complex nature of learning itself?
By making education something of a technical, production task, that has a set of rules that include standards, fixed curriculum, lesson plans, and standardized tests, we have stripped it of what a great human endeavor education actually is. Postman coined this notion as technopoly (Charles, 2004).
A New Vision
So what is a solution to the conflict in NCLB? Stop the conflict and get real with the harm that standardized tests do to our students and the possibilities abound with technology integration for preparing students for our world. This will result in:
- Valuing the knowledge a student gains and her application of this knowledge to her world, where he or she has used technology to gather and sort through various types of information, and has become an expert thinker and a complex communicator;
- Reducing the inner conflict that teachers feel when faced with high-stakes testing and the love of teaching and content, no longer feeling like they abandoned teaching of content for teaching the test; and
- Expanding opportunities for parents to see what makes their child truly successful in school and how this prepares them for an enriching life.
One might think that as institutions of higher education are changing student entrance requirements, expanding beyond merely SAT scores, that in PreK-12 education we would employ other methods for assessing student knowledge that is in agreement with how students are learning through the use of technology and applying this knowledge.
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing has drafted a document that “calls on lawmakers to reduce reliance on standardized, one-size-fits-all testing as the principal measure of student and school progress.” This petition asks for a variety of assessments that demonstrate student knowledge in more expansive ways (Murray, 2004).
Today’s job market already exhibits this way of thinking in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the market and technological innovations. In order for our students to be ready for today, where computers have reshaped the job market, we must go beyond the old and limiting ideas of standardized testing and look for ways that value students and harvest the possibilities that technology offers.
Bautz, G. “The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market Q&A with Richard Murnane and Frank Levy,” HGSE News (Harvard Graduate School of Education, June 1, 2004).
Bowman, D. “Thinking through the technology puzzle,” From Now On (October 2004, accessed October 21, 2004)
Charles, M.T. “Where are we going as we leave no child behind? La technique and Postman, Paert, and Palmer Part One and Two,” The Journal for Education, Community and Values (Berglund Center for Internet Studies, accessed November 4, 2004)
eSchool News, “Funding, integration top tech challenges” (accessed November 2, 2004) www.eschoolnews.com.
Edelman, H. “Overburdened schools focus too hard on ‘right’ answers,” The Mercury News (November 28, 2004).
Education Week. “Standards” (Education Week Research Center, accessed November 4, 2004) www.edweek.org.
Kohn, A. “Beware of the Standards, Not Just the Tests, Learning is threatened by specific, measurable uniform mandates” Education Week (September 26, 2001).
Murray, C. “Ed-tech advocates protest budget cuts,” eSchool News (September 13, 2004, November 16, 2004) www.eschoolnews.com.
Murray, C. “Grassroots web site challenges NCLB,” eSchool News (October 15, 2004; accessed November 4, 2004) www.eschoolnews.com.
Murray, C. “Ed funds up $1.4B, ed-tech off $200M,” eSchool News (November 23, 2004; accessed December 7, 2004) www.eschoolnews.com.
Kathryn Brown is the technology specialist in the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2005, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2005 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]