It doesn’t matter if you homeschool your kids or send them to public school or private school, at some point the topic of standardized testing comes up. Each state has rules about testing kids no matter what category they fit in.

Standardized testing has a place, but America is becoming very lop-sided on this issue. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) might be fine in theory, but in reality it has led to a great many problems. Most schools now “teach to the test” in order to achieve passing scores and receive federal funding. Some schools have or are considering tying teacher’s salaries to scores on the standardized test. This and many other reasons have contributed to test cheating. Not so much student cheating, but rather cheating by teachers and administrators. Many erase wrong answers, lead the student in choosing the correct answer, give out the correct answer… Recently, Atlanta, Georgia was involved in a big stink over standardized test cheating. Another disturbing fact about teaching to the test is that only what is being tested is taught. Other skills that are just as important are skipped over or barely introduced because they do not appear on the test. One way to counter this problem is to develop tests worth teaching to.

NCLB’s main focus is on skills in reading, writing and mathematics. Other subjects are not deemed worthwhile since they are not “tested” and will not contribute to a passing grade. Many schools have cut or eliminated classes and resources for various subject areas that are not part of NCLB’s accountability standards. According to The New York Times, since 2006, almost 71% of schools have reduced some instruction time in subjects such as history, arts, language and music, in order to give more time and resources to mathematics and English. In some schools, the classes remain available, but individual students who are not proficient in basic skills are sent to remedial reading or mathematics classes rather than arts, sports, or other optional subjects.

If a school does not meet AYP (annual yearly progress), which is gaged by scores on the standardized test, steps are taken to remediate the school. Penalties are assessed against the school. Money does indeed talk. Schools must bow down to the requirements of NCLB in order to continue a school at all. Sad. It is also sad that because of NCLB, many great teachers have left the field. It is just not worth it to them anymore.

The goal of 100 percent proficiency on any standardized test is simply unobtainable. Not all students are test takers. Some kids have a learning disability that interferes with the rules of standardized testing. Some students panic or have a fear of testing. The learning style of some students is not adequately presented on a standardized test. This list could go on forever!

Do you want your child cheated out of experiencing something besides math, reading, and writing? While they are very important subjects, so are art, music, history, physical education (sports), technology, drama, foreign language… Standardized testing has resulted in a prison for many kids. Gone are the days when school was well rounded and kids excelled because they had a teacher whose hands weren’t tied and subjects were explored in more depth. Going longer during the year or adding more hours to the day are NOT the answer. Standardized testing has its place, it is just not the total answer. The key is to use good testing coupled with daily performance to measure success.

So what is a parent to do? Becoming active in your school is a good first step. Find out what your school does to help students achieve better scores. Volunteer to tutor struggling students after school hours. Educate other parents about NCLB and standardized testing. Protest standardized testing (NCLB) at a local, state, and national level. Make your voice heard! Consider sending your child to private school. Take control of what your child learns by homeschooling them. There are so very many options for parents today in regards to homeschooling. Boxed curriculums, online schools, charter schools, Internet resources, local homeschool co-op groups…are all easily available. Take time to read homeschool curriculum reviews, join educational Yahoo groups, talk to homeschooling families, join a local homeschool organization, follow educational groups on Twitter or Facebook. A little time googling will reap much information.

Jackie Penn, a former public school and private school teacher, joyfully homeschools her 14 year old daughter, Hannah using an online curriculum, Time4Learning. Jackie made the arduous journey from classroom teacher to homeschool mom just over six years ago and hasn’t looked back since. Currently, Jackie writes a blog, Quaint Scribbles; tutors; writes literature units; and keeps busy with her farm animals.