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Articles: Testing

In an impoverished corner of Phoenix, just north of Sky Harbor International Airport, the first school district in Arizona to adopt a 200-day calendar is reporting impressive academic improvements after only one year.


Educators at Sweetwater High School in National City, Calif., found themselves in a bind a few years ago. The school had been designated a "Program Improvement" institution under the No Child Left Behind Act, so changes had to be made.

There are plenty of statistics available for measuring the performance, potential and problems of school districts, from standardized test scores to the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

States using college admission tests such as the SAT or ACT for measuring achievement of state learning standards are being cautioned to rethink using tests in this manner in a new report from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University. There are currently six states using these college admission tests for both high- and low-stakes testing to gauge No Child Left Behind compliance, which researchers worry is not accurately measuring high school achievement of the entire student population and not lining up with state curriculum learning standards.

The U.S. Department of Education has earmarked $350 million in Race to the Top grants for states to develop new assessments for the Common Core Standards. On September 2, it was announced that the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) was awarded $170 million and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) won $160 million. The two groups submitted their applications in June 2010.

The eight-year-old No Child Left Behind Act established for the first time a federal benchmark for student achievement. When the Obama Administration took office last year, the new president promised to stay true to the goals of NCLB while upgrading what critics have termed simplistic, "fill in a bubble" testing to create a more comprehensive assessment of student learning.

Our country's Advanced placement programs are booming and have been for some time. In May 2000, approximately 769,000 students took 1.3 million AP exams in this country. By May 2009, approximately 1.7 million students took nearly 3 million exams—a growth rate of 130 percent in nine years. The 1990s saw an even greater rate: 145 percent. What's behind this impressive growth?

With each year comes a fresh crop of college-bound students pressured by the headlines to overcome the increasingly competitive nature of college admissions. However, a new study from the Center for Public Education (CPE) illustrates that the perception that an average applicant faces more challenges each year may be nothing more than mere myth.

Like other districts with schools that are not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals for five consecutive years, Hawaii is restructuring its low performing schools as required by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Unlike most other districts, however, Hawaii, a single statewide district, has been doing it for five years with the support of three independent education consulting firms working directly with administrators and teachers in the failing schools.

Seventy-seven percent of high school students nationwide are missing the core benchmarks necessary to prepare them for their first year in college, according to a new study conducted by the research and policy arm of ACT, which conducts curriculum based college entrance exams similar to the SAT.


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