Across the United States, states, schools, and students are now fully immersed in efforts to meet the educational accountability requirements set forth by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which took effect in 2002. NCLB requires the development of student performance standards and regular assessment of student learning. Schools that fail to show progress in improving achievement for all students receive assistance first, then sanctions. NCLB also emphasizes the importance of high-quality teaching and contains provisions encouraging states to see that teachers are adequately prepared for their teaching responsibilities.
States have already developed and published standards for mathematics achievement and were required to have standards for science in place by academic year 2005 (the school year that began in fall 2005). Beginning in academic year 2005, school districts must assess student mathematics performance yearly in grades 3 through 8. Beginning in academic year 2007, districts must assess student science performance once in elementary school and once in middle school. Over the next few years, the results of these assessments will provide new and important data about student performance in those crucial subjects.