The Dangerous Consequences of High-Stakes Standardized Testing (page 2)

— National Center for Fair and Open Testing
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

4) High-stakes testing drives out good teachers.

As learning largely depends on teacher quality, real improvements in schools can only come through teachers. Good teachers are often discouraged, even disgusted, by the overemphasis on testing. Many excellent teachers leave. It is absurd to believe that the "best and brightest" will want to become teachers when teaching is reduced to test prep and when schools are continually attacked by politicians, business leaders and the media. When narrow tests are used to hold schools accountable, teachers also leave low-performing schools where they are needed most.

5) High-stakes testing misinforms the public.

People have a right to know how well schools are doing. However, tests fail to provide sufficient information. The new federal requirement that only assessment scores be used to determine whether schools are improving will make the situation worse.

Teaching to the test causes score inflation (score gains that don’t represent actual improvements in learning) which misleads the public into thinking schools are improving, when they may not be better – and due to teaching to the test, may even be worse.

Most tests are secret, so the public cannot know what students are expected to know. State academic content standards typically are too long, often too obscure, and much of what is in them is not tested.

Tests are a narrow slice of what parents and the public need to know about schools. They don’t include non-academic areas and they are weak measures of academics.

Test results don’t take into account non-school factors that affect learning, such as poverty, hunger, student mobility, lack of medical care, safety, community resources, parents’ education - all of which must be addressed if "no children are to be left behind."

Conclusion: High-stakes testing does not improve education.

Test standards and major research groups such as the National Academy of Sciences clearly state that major educational decisions should not be based solely on a test score. High-stakes testing punishes students, and often teachers, for things they cannot control. It drives students and teachers away from learning, and at times from school. It narrows, distorts, weakens and impoverishes the curriculum while fostering forms of instruction that fail to engage students or support high-quality learning. In a high-stakes testing environment, the limit to educational improvement is largely dictated by the tests - but the tests are a poor measure of high-quality curriculum and learning. In particular, the emphasis on testing hurts low-income students and students from minority groups. Testing cannot provide adequate information about school quality or progress. High-stakes testing actively hurts, rather than helps, genuine educational improvement.

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