NCLB Steals Time from Teaching

K-12 Testing
A recent report from the Wisconsin affiliate of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) found No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is diverting resources away from teaching and learning and toward testing. The money spent directly on the tests, while substantial, was not the cost that concerned school administrators most. Rather, it was the "opportunity cost," the time devoted to testing that could otherwise have been spent on instruction. The neediest students pay the highest opportunity costs.


The study's authors-- Michael B. Zellmer, Anthony Frontier, and Denise Pheifer--estimate Wisconsin spent about $14,700,000 for state NCLB testing in 2005-2006, not including scoring, shipping and other related costs. But what they really wanted to know was the cost in human resources. The results show teachers spent an average of 976 hours administering the tests. NCLB also requires the time of administrators, guidance counselors, specialists and substitutes, who must all must shift from their educational mission to the demands of the tests.


The authors say that those subgroups with the greatest educational needs, including students with disabilities or limited English proficiency, lose the most instructional time to the testing demands: "Some schools reported that disadvantaged student populations experienced as many as 15 days-three weeks-of disrupted instructional services because the specialists were involved in test administration. Across a student's 12-year span in a district, that could result in as many as 36 weeks, or a full year, of disrupted services for the disadvantaged students who are at the greatest risk of not meeting NCLB objectives."


Administrators were asked what they would do to fix NCLB. "The most common response (42 percent) was to shorten, eliminate, or revise the large-scale tests," including shifting from annual testing to every other year.


"What are NCLB's Instructional Costs?" Educational Leadership, Nov. 2006,