Will More Testing Improve Schools?
Across the nation, states and districts have greatly expanded the use of standardized tests to hold schools and districts "accountable" for student learning. The pending 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will most likely further expand and intensify the role of testing.
The U.S. already tests more children more often than any other nation.
Despite this, many claim that more testing and accountability based on
those tests will improve education, particularly in schools serving
predominantly low-income and minority-group children.
FairTest disagrees. We believe there is an important role for good assessment of student learning. The public deserves to know how well schools are doing, schools need to use information about student learning to improve teaching, and there should be intervention in schools which are unable to improve even when they have been provided the resources and tools to do so. None of this requires heavy reliance on results from state or commercial standardized tests. Focusing on those tests will not lead to high quality education for all children, but will instead turn schools into test-prep assembly lines that will leave many children behind. The emphasis on test results will undermine, not improve, the quality of education in schools now providing good education, and will not improve the quality of schools which most need help. It will diminish in particular the educational opportunities and outcomes for students of color and low income students.
High Stakes for Students. Decision-making about students in which a test score can override all other information--so that not passing a test leads to retention in grade or denial of a diploma regardless of other information about the student--contradicts the recommendations of the National Research Council and violates the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. Low-income, minority-group, special needs, limited English proficient, and vocational students are most likely to suffer from this unfair use of tests. Such policies should be stopped.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
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