There has been little public outcry over the fact that private, multinational companies operating beyond public oversight are determining which students, schools, and districts in the United States are deemed "failures" and which are deemed "successes." Given the secrecy that shrouds testing company operations, information is negligible. What the public doesn't know, the public doesn't complain about.
Critics of standardized testing also point to a third problem beyond the amount of money and the secrecy. That's the problem of missed opportunity. There's little doubt that the Bush administration's obsession with standardized tests as the sole determinant of school success has undermined reforms that focus on teaching children to think and to do more than fill in circles on test forms.
"The amount of money spent on standardized testing is not the real problem," notes Monty Neill, executive director of the Boston-based group FairTest. "The real problem is how it distorts teaching and learning."
NCLB, introduced two days after George W. Bush took office and passed a year later, instituted an unprecedented level of federal mandates for testing public school students. The mandates built on bipartisan support for a corporate-influenced agenda of increased standardized testing. But NCLB carried that agenda to new levels, both with the number of tests and the harsh sanctions for those schools not meeting predetermined levels of test progress.
NCLB requires annual testing of students in third through eighth grades in mathematics and reading or language arts, and testing once in high school. Beginning in 2007-08, states will also be required to give tests in science at least once in elementary, middle, and high school. All told, there will be 17 NCLB tests each year for school districts. This translates into unfathomable amounts of school time devoted to standardized testing and teaching to those tests. It also creates untold business opportunities for the companies that produce the tests. (If you add in district- and state-mandated tests on top of NCLB requirements, and the growing number of "practice" tests given to students so they will do well on the "real" tests, the number of tests schools must administer skyrockets.)