In this era of accountability and No Child Left Behind (NCLB), test scores are all that matter. Or are they? Could our preoccupation with test scores be producing classroom conditions that actually undermine student learning? When tests become high-stakes, teachers naturally focus their attention on the knowledge and skills the tests measure—leaving less time to engage students in conversation about personal issues or make them feel valued and supported. Feeling pressured to produce higher test scores, teachers become more controlling and less patient, particularly with students who lag behind.
Ironically, these effects of NCLB get in the way of achieving the very goals the law aims to promote. Learning requires effort, and one of the best predictors of students' effort and engagement in school is the relationships they have with their teachers (Osterman, 2000). To promote high academic standards, teachers need to create supportive social contexts and develop positive relationships with students.