- State tests do not show a student's progress. If I have a child who moved from a 2nd grade reading level to a 4th grade level, the test does not take this into account. If the child cannot pass a sixth grade test, he or she is marked as a failure. Since most of my present kids start out significantly below grade level, most of them will be deemed failures regardless of any progress made. By testing level instead of progress, inner-city students face barriers that most suburban students do not.
- Since these tests use a high level of academic vocabulary, most of my current students face a natural disadvantage because this level of vocabulary is not typically used at home. My suburban students would have been raised hearing this level of vocabulary.
- My suburban students had a much higher concern for grades and test scores than my present students. For many suburban kids, grades were tied to their allowance, vacations, or sports opportunities. Failure to get certain grades meant loss of privileges. Since most of the parents were highly educated, the culture in the home stated that grades matter. My inner-city students have little of that, so typically grades and scores mean little to them. When I give a test to my inner-city students, there is rarely any interest shown by them for their test results. My suburban kids would be asking me a half hour later if I had corrected them yet... they WANTED to know what they got. This gives suburban students a significant advantage in state testing... they have been conditioned to CARE about any test.
- Inner-City students tend to be more dependent on assistance than suburban students. Because they have not received the same support and oversight at home as their suburban counterparts, and because much of their schooling has been remedial, they are more teacher dependent. This puts them in a much less secure position when having to be completely independent for a high stakes test.
In any case, according to No Child Left Behind, all of these results will be placed at the teacher's feet... though they have little control over so many of these factors.
Observations of an Inner-City School Teacher: Part 1