A Comparative Analysis of the Influence of High Stakes Testing Mandates in the Elementary School

By Inserra, Albert; Bossert, Kenneth R. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

A Comparative Analysis of the Influence of High Stakes Testing Mandates in the Elementary School


Inserra, Albert, Bossert, Kenneth R., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, sponsored by President George W. Bush, calls for 100 percent proficiency in reading and mathematics by 2014. This Federal mandate has caused all public schools in the United States to examine the programs in use to meet these requirements. In addition, states across the country have implemented a series of high-stakes testing to insure that school districts are accountable for measurable growth among the student population.

New York State has been on the front line in the implementation of high-stakes testing and increasing accountability. New York State is now administering assessments in English/Language Arts as well as Mathematics to all students in grades three through eight. This empirical research examined how elementary teacher attitudes towards high-stakes testing influence the range of instructional methods they employ and their self-reported ability to engage students in enrichment activities within the classroom.

Background/Introduction

In 1983, The National Commission on Education published a document titled A Nation at Risk, which raised public awareness regarding a "crisis" taking place within American public schools. American students were viewed as falling behind students attending public schools in other countries, placing American students in a position to lose economic and scientific opportunities to students in countries such as Japan and China.

Eighteen years later, similar concerns still exist as American students struggle to compete within the global marketplace. In response, President George W. Bush proposed federal legislation known as the No Child Left Behind Act, passed by Congress in 2001. This act mandated that all public school students would be proficient in mathematics and reading by 2014 as evidenced by standardized, high-stakes testing that would be implemented at designated grade levels. State education departments across the country responded and developed assessments that were to be administered in the areas of English/Language Arts and Mathematics across selected grade levels.

In January of 2001, newly inaugurated President George W. Bush announced No Child Left Behind as the "cornerstone of my Administration." "Despite nearly $200 billion in Federal spending since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), too many of our neediest children are being left behind" (United States Education Dept., 2004, www.ed.gov/print/nclb/overview/intro/execsumm.html, para. 2).

   The NCLB Act:
   Reauthorizes the ESEA, incorporates the principles
   and strategies proposed by President Bush. These include increased
   accountability for States, school districts, and schools; greater
   choice for parents and students, particularly those attending
   low-performing schools, more flexibility for state and local
   educational agencies (LEAs) in the use of federal education
   dollars; and a stronger emphasis on reading, especially for our
   youngest children" (United States Education Dept., 2004,
   www.ed.gov/print/nclb/overview/ intro/execsumm.html, para. 6).

In 2005, the United States Education Department, as a function of NCLB, reviewed student progress in each state since the passage of NCLB. The United States Education Department noted the following gains that took place between 2002 and 2004.

   Fourth-grade mathematics achievement increased by 11 percentage
   points; the black-white achievement gap in fourth-grade reading
   narrowed by three percentage points; the Hispanic-white achievement
   gap in fourth-grade reading narrowed by five percentage points; the
   black-white achievement gap in fourthgrade mathematics narrowed by
   10 percentage points; and the Hispanic-white achievement gap in
   fourth-grade mathematics narrowed by 10 percentage points (United
   States Education Dept., 2004, www.ed.gov/print/
   nclb/overview/intro/execsumm. … 

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