Beyond Test Scores: The Missing Link in ‘No Child Left Behind’

By Mary-Dean Barringer, All Kinds of Minds CEO

The U.S. House Labor and Education Committee will hold a hearing in Washington D.C. on April 14 to examine how the use of data systems in schools across the country can help improve educational outcomes. This is a critical part of looking at how they will reauthorize No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Snooze. Wake me up when Congress decides to hold a hearing on how good data—and the right kind of data—can help improve student learning.

Accurately measuring growth in learning requires that we develop rich data portraits of learners. There is clear value in taking periodic snapshots of student progress that formative and summative tests provide. These snapshots can identify academic “hot spots” and red flags that indicate a weak skill area. But as a nation, we’ve overlooked the importance of supplementing test data with the qualitative observations that often unmask the root of learning breakdowns or discover previously unseen talents. These observations can be critical to creating pathways to student success.

We know from research that minds are uniquely wired, creating individual learning profiles. Neuroscience and developmental perspectives inform the assessment that can occur when educators dig a little deeper to know their students as learners. There are many observational protocols that provide multiple sources of qualitative data. This creates a rich description of evidence to better inform instructional decisions, as we describe in Chapter 4 of our book, Schools for All Kinds of Minds.

But my guess is that no witness invited to the hearing will discuss this type of innovation that we need in our assessment practices. And that’s too bad, because we might have started the discussion of our need for the new NCLB—Now, Children Learning Better.

Contact your House representative to help them understand the importance of looking beyond test scores to measure student learning.

3 thoughts on “Beyond Test Scores: The Missing Link in ‘No Child Left Behind’

  1. My son has adhd and ld. He is a strugling student especially in reading. He was held back once and should be in 4 th grade but is in 3 rd reads at a 2 nd. He gets all the support available to him. He has always had wonderful teachers but due to our Florida state test fcat they teach students to pass test. If teachers could teach like they want our kids would be better off. To much pressure on them. Do away with theses tests and just due evaluate how they are doing. Kids need a lot of different tools to learn and maybe they wouldnt struggle so much. Let teachers be teachers.

  2. First, I’d just like to mention that I’m a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate from 2000. It’s always nice to run into people, physically or virtually, who are from a familiar place.

    I currently live in Israel and work with Nitzan, the Israeli Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities, and I wanted to say that I hear a similar message over here. That is, we frequently talk about how the the Congress or Knesset doesn’t really understand what needs to be done to improve education, of course implying that we do know.

    My question is how can we influence others?

  3. For many years my Internet signature has been,
    “There is nothing new in education except jargon and
    After trying convince educators, particularly administrators,
    that combined with a simpler discipline analyzer, and measuring
    teachers and students simultaneously to discover who is at
    fault in a non learning situation, the best answer came from a very young principle, who 35 years ago complained that if my
    system were used he would have to fire a teacher.

    I believe, if given the opportunity, and this is a challenge,
    to meet 20 – 25 in a classroom for only one hour, and show
    what happens to their students.

    Also, it’s beginning to appear, in my opinion, that their is tyrant(sy) evolving in the educational system.


    Rabbi David Kraus, MEd

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