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Opportunity to Learn Under NCLB

Regularly assessing students' understanding and progress can provide data to identify students who may need an additional or alternative opportunity to learn. With regard to assessment, Winfield (1987) notes that opportunity to learn relate to "the provision of adequate and timely instruction of specific content and skills prior to taking a test" (p. 438) and suggests that opportunity to learn can be measured by indicators such as "time spent in reviewing, practicing, or applying a particular concept or by the amount and depth of content covered with particular groups of students" (p. 439). Students who fail tests should be provided meaningful opportunities for remediation that focus on the knowledge and skills on the test, and provide enough time for them to remedy any weakness in that area before retaking the test (American Educational Research Association [AERA], 2000).

More than a decade-old concept, opportunities to learn were proposed to maximize fairness and equity for students (Porter, 1993). Opportunities to learn, historically, were defined as standards that “are to represent what schools and teachers must do if the new curriculum and achievement standards are to be met” (Porter, 1993, p. 1). Later, the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) claimed that the most powerful indicators of opportunity to learn include teachers' content knowledge, pedagogical know-how, and understanding of students' progress and learning needs. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (NCLB, 2002) includes opportunity to learn in its accountability structure and specifies that lack of equity in the classroom can result in serious adverse consequences for schools and teachers.

An opportunity to learn for one student may not meet the learning needs of another student in the same classroom. Research shows that students learn using different modalities, at different paces, and with different levels of prior knowledge, motivation, and interest that all impact their learning achievement (APA Task Force on Psychology in Education, 1993; APA Work Group of the Board of Educational Affairs, 1997; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999; Tomlinson, 1999). In classrooms where teachers are attuned to the range in opportunities to learn that a group of students may need, teachers foster student growth and development on an individualized basis. Opportunities-to-learn requirements affect all students, especially those with established individualized educational programs (IEPs). Although students with IEPs may need more accommodations, a classroom that provides equitable opportunities to learn will provide enough flexibility in its scope and sequence to support all students' progress toward adequate yearly progress requirements.



American Educational Research Association. (2000, July). AERA position statements: H igh-stakes testing in preK-12 education . Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

APA Task Force on Psychology in Education. (1993, January). Learner-centered psychological principles: Guidelines for school redesign and reform. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association and Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

APA Work Group of the Board of Educational Affairs. (1997, November). Learner-centered psychological principles: A framework for school reform and redesign. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

National Research Council. (1996). National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002). Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

Porter, A. (1993). Brief to policymakers: Opportunity to learn. Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Winfield, L. F. (1987). Teachers' estimates of test content covered in class and first-grade students' reading achievement. Elementary School Journal, 87(4), 438–445.

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