Margins of Error: The Testing Industry in the No Child Left Behind Era

Reports & Briefs | January 30, 2006
Related Issue(s): Testing and Assessment
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State standards and standardized tests have become dominant forces in American public schooling. For most of its history, public education in the U.S. was a local matter, with local schools and school systems setting their own educational priorities. But in the wake of mounting evidence that the preparation most students received from public schools wouldn't suffice in a postindustrial economy, and with the conscience of the nation having been transformed by the civil rights movement, policymakers began to pursue a new paradigm, one that sought to establish statewide public school standards and hold local educators accountable if their students fell short of these standards. Standardized tests, used to measure student performance against the new state expectations, are the linchpin of this strategy of standards-based reform.

"Margins of Error" reveals how factors such as the scale of standardized testing required by NCLB, competitive pressures in the testing industry, tight regulatory deadlines, a dearth of testing experts, and lax state oversight are resulting in tests that in many states undermine NCLB's pursuit of higher academic standards. The report provides recommendations for both state and federal policymakers to strengthen the nation's testing infrastructure.

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