It was easy to see one of the basic flaws in No Child Left Behind. As I roamed through the rooms, I saw one student who was protesting a dress code decision she did not like by writing one sentence over and over to each answer on her test. Fortunately, she did change her mind before the testing session was done, but how easy it would have been for one dress code decision to bring down the school's scores.
Other situations were not so happily resolved. One student, angered by the teacher who was administering the test, refused to write more than one sentence on a writing assignment that required considerably more.
I saw students who appeared to have had little or no sleep and I suspect there were one or two, or perhaps more, who might have used some kind of illegal substance the previous evening. (No evidence, but the odds would indicate that as a strong possibility.)
While No Child Left Behind is a laudable goal, as long as you have students who do not care, students whose parents do not care and provide no backup to the teachers, and as long as students have to deal with home lives that include poverty, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and all kinds of entertainment that diverts them from education, you will never reach a time when no child is left behind.
I never saw anyone follow up on this, but in the Sept. 3, 2006, Turner Report, I pointed out some flaws in Missouri MAP testing, none of which have ever been investigated as far as I can tell:
Joplin's score of students reaching the proficient level (those scoring on the top two levels of the test) was 41.7 percent. Scores from Joplin-area schools I checked ranged from 50.2 at Webb City and 47.4 at my old high school, East Newton, at the top end of the scale to 25.8 at Sarcoxie and 28.5 at Golden City at the bottom.
As I was examining the test scores on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, I happened across Willard's score, one I checked out because that is the school system where my nieces attend though neither is in eighth grade. Willard had a 54.3.
At that point, I checked the Springfield schools...56.6...and I wondered if a pattern was beginning to emerge. I kept checking...Republic 44.6, Nixa 59.0, Strafford 53.6, Ozark 45.2, Fair Grove 50.6, Clever 51.3, Ash Grove 47.1.
I looked back at the scores for this part of the state:
Joplin 41.7, Webb City 50.3, Seneca 45.2, Neosho 41.0, McDonald County 35.2, Lamar 41.7, Jasper 36.5, East Newton 47.4, Carl Junction 42.6, Carthage 37.0, Sarcoxie 25.8, Pierce City 32.4.
What are the odds of six of the nine Springfield-area schools I checked having higher scores than the top school district in the Joplin area? What are the odds of the bottom school on that list scoring almost 20 percentage points above the bottom score in the Joplin area?
The top five schools in the Springfield area averaged 54.9, while the top five schools in the Joplin area averaged 45.4, 9.5 percent lower.
Undoubtedly, grading systems were applied differently in these two areas and who knows how they were handled elsewhere?