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Testing and the law

It might just be, in the view of the public-education community, that the seminal event of 2001 wasn't the Islamic terrorist destruction of the Twin Towers, but the adoption of then-obscure public law 107-110 soon to be known as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB.

Since 1969, the feds had been reaching into classrooms in each state to test a small sample of 4th, 8th, and 12th graders in such areas as math and reading, and then publishing the dismal (average scores, in the low 200's out of 500) NAEP test results in the annual National Digest of Educational Statistics, but no one in educational circles paid much attention until NCLB unleashed a new requirement: that just about all students be testing at the "proficient" level by 2014, and that, until then, the schools had to demonstrate that they were making Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) toward that goal. Outrageous. Unfunded federal mandate. Violation of states' rights.

Rutland N.E. school superintendent William Mathis led a legal challenge to the unreasonable notion that his schools were supposed to educate their students to the level of proficiency in subjects such as math and reading. If you want that, you'll have to pay a lot extra for it, his lawsuit says.

There's a clause in NCLB which lets states purchase, deploy, and publish the results of purchased private-sector tests (in, Vermont, for example, NSRE or NECAP) wherein students seem to do far better than on the NAEP tests, on which students weren't making anywhere near the required AYP requirements, and eventually the feds decided to do a study on the discrepancy.

In 2007 it was published under the title "Mapping 2005 State Standards Onto the NAEP Scales," and soon drew a modest amount of public interest. U.S. News and World Report, for example, published a lengthy article (March 5, 2007) including a state-by-state chart showing graphically the gap between State and NAEP test scores, so that an average 2/3 of students showing non-proficient on the NAEP's were mysteriously showing 2/3 proficient on such tests as Vermont's current preference, NECAP.

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