One recurring criticism of No Child Left Behind is that it forces teachers to “teach to the test” in order to get students to pass standardized tests. These critics say that a consequence of teaching to the test is that teacher creativity and student learning are stifled. Moreover, critics charge that it is unrealistic to expect learning disabled students and non-English speaking students to pass the test.
Another criticism related to testing is that the law often leads to anomalous results. For example, in 2005, Tennessee officials announced that 87 percent of the state’s eighth grade students were proficient in math, a number that authorities said was a “cause for celebration.” Yet according to the federal standards, only 21 percent of the state’s eight graders were proficient in math. Tennessee’s experience is by no means unusual, with well over a dozen states showing similar discrepancies. Eighty-nine percent of fourth graders in Mississippi tested at or above proficiency in the state reading assessment, but only 18 percent scored that way on the federal test, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).