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Articles: Testing

El Paso Independent School District (EPISD ) is the tenth-largest district in Texas and one of two in the city of El Paso, along with Ysleta ISD . At the start of the 21st century, the urban district was struggling. Scores on the 2003-2004 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) were disappointing, with 72 percent of students meeting the state standards for reading, 56 percent for math, and 53 percent for science, while just 50 percent of students passed all TAKS tests, some of the lowest scores of any urban district in the state.

In March, U.S. Secretary of education arne Duncan estimated that 82 percent of schools could fail to make adequate yearly Progress in the 2011- 2012 school year. The startling statistic left many wondering whether the problem was with the schools or with the guiding policy of no child Left Behind.

Administrators and teachers in several large districts nationwide have cheated on standardized tests to make achievement levels look better than they actually were. The offenses range from giving students advance answers to questions on standardized tests, to erasing and changing unsatisfactory answers.

The No Child Left Behind Act dates back to Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, part of that president's ambitious signature policy, the War on Poverty. After a 36-year conflict, however, poverty was officially declared the winner in 2001. As a result, the ESEA was revamped and renamed the No Child left Behind Act by George W. Bush in 2002, and was apparently part of the president's ambitious signature policy, the War on Terror. After nine years of terrorizing schools nationwide, however, the bill is about to be reformed, but even more importantly, renamed.

I've been personally and professionally blessed to have had the opportunity to serve some very diverse and large urban school communities in several states as superintendent of schools. These varied locales have given me the unique opportunity to look at the world of system reform through a broader range of lenses. These multiple perspectives have provided me with insights into the role state policies and infrastructure play in the pace at which systemic reforms can be implemented and accelerated.

All the rhetoric urging the U.S. education system to up the ante to remain competitive in a global economy came to a sobering point with the release of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results on Dec. 7, 2010. In 2009, the United States, along with 65 other countries, joined PISA to assess the performance of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science. The United States remained just average in reading and science, while lagging a bit in mathematics on the global scale.

Stop talking about the past! There were 18,628 words in the 12 articles in The New York Times Magazine's 2010 education issue. Of the 12 articles, only one 465- word sidebar used the words "mobile phone," "cell phone" or "smartphone"—13 times. If we were reading the technology section or the business section, those words would be too numerous to count. While we appreciate being told about how education has been, we would have expected The New York Times Magazine to tell us how education is going to be.

The responsibilities of the modern school superintendent may already seem boundless, from making the most of shrinking budgets, to working 21st-century skills into the K12 curriculum, to meeting the escalating standards of NCLB testing. But thanks to the initiatives of two national organizations dedicated to improving the use of educational technology in schools, the job description just got longer.

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.

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