Blending Assessment with Standards-Based Instruction as an Approach to Adding Equity to No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

Article excerpt

Introduction

The international emphasis on improving educational outcomes for elementary and secondary learners in public schools has taken different forms. However, there are common elements. Some have been driven by initiatives that are political in nature; others are culturally and/or philosophically driven. There is also the view that the impact of the comparative performance of students among countries has stimulated the movement. As a result of these influences, the pedagogical principles consistent with the views and preferences of the professional community are not always evident, and in some cases give rise to public criticism The range of models that have emerged over the past five years tend to approximate some aspect of two versions (e.g., prescribed national and state curricula and a standards-based model). Two examples that are embedded in legislation include the national curriculum in the England as defined by the Education Reform Act of 1988 and the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) implemented in 1998 and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation passed by the United States Congress in 2004. Central to this movement has been a major effort by most countries to create resources for teachers that are aligned with the curriculum approach they have adopted for enhancing the academic achievement of their students. This paper focuses on a major intervention in mathematics that has been developed at the University of Kansas as one approach to assisting teachers in the United States in providing instruction for their students in meeting the standards-based expectations of NCLB. As a context for describing the Blending Assessment with Instruction Program (BAIP), the common elements of the national curriculum model employed in England and the standards-based model in the United States will be discussed. The standards-based model embedded in NCLB is a framework for discussing some of the lessons learned in the United States. This will be followed by a presentation of the work that has been on-going for the past four years at the University of Kansas on blending assessment with instruction, a large-scale intervention designed to enhance attainment of the NCLB requirements at both classroom and state levels.

When one examines the under girding legislation and the history of the two different approaches (i.e., England vs. the United States), the commonalities become apparent. Specifically,

   Both are prescriptive, but vary in degree.
   Both are concerned about equity for disadvantaged students.
   Both are accountability oriented.
   Both have consequences for nonperforming districts.
   Both identify core subjects.
   Both require assessments at specified ages or grades.
   Both aspire toward higher achievement outcomes.
   Both include professional development.
   Both resulted from legislation.

      Both are intended to allow teachers to organize their instruction
      to meet
      the needs of their students.
      Both have resulted is mixed views from the public and
      professional communities.

Curriculum standards, as found in the United States movement, by nature lack the prescriptive influence of a national curriculum. However, it is widely agreed that the standards being employed in many individual states within the United States represent a step toward a national curriculum, particularly when aligned with high-stakes assessments. High stakes take the form of legislated policies (e.g., it is widely agreed in the United States that state assessments, as translations of the standards, tend to drive instruction that move the curriculum toward a common focus). Thus, the consequences of failing to meet accountability policy, as specified in the law, puts pressure on teachers to teach to the standards covered by annual summative tests or, at least, to place a great deal of emphasis on formative tests made available to teachers for instructional purposes. …