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Tool NCLB: the alignment case for broader tests

Summary

No Child Left Behind, the 2002 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, (see http://www.ed.gov/nclb/landing.jhtml?src=pb) requires the alignment of state tests with the state’s standards. In many states these standards have been developed by the state’s mathematics education leadership to reflect high international standards, often along the lines of NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. They reflect a much broader set of performance goals than are assessed in most state tests.

There are now reliable Tool alignment protocols, independent of the test publishers, that measure alignment. Standards-based assessment that covers this broader spectrum of performance is available. However, there are obstacles to the adoption of standards-based tests by states, including unfamiliarity and higher cost.

A system’s professional leadership in mathematics education can play a key role in achieving better-aligned tests – a crucial element in advancing standards-based improvement. Useful actions for mathematics supervisors and their colleagues to take include:
  • Take leadership in the development of formative assessment programs for districts that will give local districts data on progress during the year. These local assessment programs can afford to be broader and deeper than state programs but they will be much more effective if the state tests include similar tasks. They can provide the foundation for a continuing program of assessment-led improvement.
  • As opportunities arise, work to ensure that state tests are aligned with state standards, as required by NCLB (see below).

Tool Evidence on the influence of assessment on teachers' classroom practices suggests that well-aligned high-stakes assessment is a powerful tool for Strategy standards-based improvement.

Benefits and adaptations

Other benefits include improved student motivation and, particularly, through the power of Tool professional development for and through performance assessment help for teachers to understand the benefits of standards-based mathematics, and to handle a Tool standards-based mathematics curriculum in their classroom.

Strategic applications