Moving Every Child Ahead

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - April 2008

This important book calls for overhauling NCLB to focus on providing "meaningful educational opportunity" for all children, changing the law’s focus from tests and punishments to building school capacity to educate all children well. These proposals are similar to those of the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA, chaired by FairTest). However, the book does not offer adequate alternatives to remedy the damage caused by NCLB's emphasis on standardized testing.

Written by Michael Rebell, a leading figure in state funding adequacy litigation and campaigns, and Jessica Wolff, their book first addresses the imperative for educational equity stemming from the Brown v. Board of Education decision. They then highlight the socio-economic inequities that underlie school inequality. Pointing out that the NCLB goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 is impossible to achieve, they argue that the nation’s educational goals will only be attained by providing students with an adequate opportunity to learn. The rest of the book discusses what it would take to provide such an opportunity, focusing on adequate resources and teacher quality. It emphasizes collaborative, in-school professional development as essential to school improvement.

The authors recognize that the standardized tests now used by states to hold schools accountable fail to adequately assess much of what students should learn. Unfortunately, they settle for a call to improve standardized tests and use of growth measures based on those tests. This is not an effective response to the damage caused by the over-emphasis on testing. Rather, states, districts and schools need very different systems of assessment that rely primarily on classroom-based information. The Massachusetts CARE plan, the Nebraska local assessment system, and the report by FEA's Expert Panel on Assessment all provide useful ways to think about constructing such systems.

But by emphasizing that federal law must change to emphasize helping states and localities build school capacity, Rebell and Wolff make a valuable contribution. The book's many rich details, particularly on resource adequacy and meaningful educational opportunity, will make it a useful tool for advocates.

- Moving Every Child Ahead: From NCLB Hype to Meaningful Educational Opportunity. Teachers College Press;

- FEA materials are at and

- The CARE proposal is available at

- On Nebraska, see the recent paper by Chris Gallagher, "The Nebraska STARS Assessment Program," available at

- The Expert Panel report is at