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Teaching in the age of No Child Left Behind

SED events will explore the role of tests in the classroom

Since its passage in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act — which requires elementary and secondary schools to measure students’ progress with standardized tests and allocates federal resources according to the results — has presented challenges for both new and experienced teachers. While proponents of NCLB say that it promotes a system of accountability for schools and teachers, critics contend that it forces educators to adhere to a narrow curriculum that is focused on test results.

To help education students fully understand the act’s requirements and events, the School of Education is launching a series of discussions on NCLB. The Undergraduate Student Government is sponsoring the four-part event, which begins tonight, February 1, with an exploration of the act’s history, and concludes on Wednesday, March 1, with a panel discussion about its long-term effects.

“Our overarching goal is to just really tell people who are interested in becoming teachers what this means for them,” says Cara Stillings, an SED postgraduate student and instructor. “There’s a lot of rhetoric, and we wanted to get at what it means, what are they trying to do, and what does it mean for teachers in the future?”

Karen Boatman, a clinical associate professor of administration, training, and policy studies, will give tonight’s lecture on the historical context of NCLB and other assessment tests. On Wednesday, February 8, Stillings will speak on the different components of standardized tests and how the assessment tests are changing as NCLB approaches its fourth year. On Tuesday, February 21, Mary Bourque, the assistant superintendent of the Chelsea School District, will discuss the challenges and effects of implementing the law in an urban school system, and in the March 1 final session, all three speakers will meet for a group conversation.

The discussions will all be held in SED Room 250 at 7 p.m.
The intent of the discussion series, Stillings says, is to acknowledge the complexities of the act and to help students understand how it will affect their goals in the classroom.

“The intricacies of it are such that even people who are practitioners of it don’t fully understand it,” Stillings says. “But it’s really useful in thinking about what we are trying to do in this country with education. No Child Left Behind changes a lot [in education], and it’s not going anywhere.”