No Child Left behind and the Reduction of the Achievement Gap: Sociological Perspectives on Federal Educational Policy

By Alan R. Sadovnik; Jennifer A. O’Day et al. | Go to book overview

4
Who Counts for Accountability?
High-Stakes Test Exemptions
in a Large Urban School District1

Jennifer Booher-Jennings and Andrew A. Beveridge

Should NCLB hold schools accountable for all students, including special education students, English Language Learners (ELL), and students new to the school? Two competing goals of accountability systems—to improve the performance of all students and to fairly measure the performance of schools—collide uncomfortably in this question.

Proponents of holding all students to the same standard—in other words, testing all students on the same grade-level tests—contend that exemptions or alternate assessments for these students perpetuate the educational neglect that NCLB is intended to correct. If students are exempted or held to a different standard, they argue, schools will have little incentive to focus time and attention on these students. As a result, they are unlikely to ever reach proficiency. Moreover, excluding the scores of students new to the school2 will lead educators to divert attention away from these students. The consequence of excluding some students, then, is their loss of access to scarce educational resources. Avoiding such negative consequences would entail testing and holding schools accountable for all students, though measurement accuracy would be sacrificed and schools serving the most vulnerable students would be unfairly penalized.

Opponents of NCLB’s current participation requirements hold that grade-level English-only tests are inappropriate measures for some special education and ELL students. Requiring students to take these tests, it is argued, is detrimental to the students themselves and punishes schools serving large numbers of these students. If accuracy of measurement is privileged, these students should be

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