Throughout the nation, the lid is lifting off of a boiling-pot debate over high stakes standardized testing. What started out as a relatively small argument in the academic community is turning out to be a bit of a hullabaloo. Increasingly, test-cheating scandals are being uncovered and widely publicized, as in the criminal indictment of 35 school officials and teachers in Atlanta, Georgia, and all parties are coming out swinging. The arguments involved are many, and with the recent introduction of the National Common Core Learning Standards, the new standardized tests that are based on these standards, and the new teacher evaluation systems that are partly determined by student scores, it seems there will be even more to come.
It’s going to be a while before the issues with standardized testing in the U.S. are resolved, but can we really afford to drag this matter out for very long? While the warring factions bicker on, the controversy grows ever greater, the pitfalls get even deeper, and generations of students are being affected. So, how do we fix this problem? The answer to the question varies depending on who you ask.
I’ll start with some of the views I’ve heard expressed by those appearing to be most vocal on the issue, or at least the one’s who have gotten the most news coverage, and hope you, my readers will help me to identify more for later blogs on the subject.
In one corner you GROUP #1:
The people calling for the elimination of high stakes or standardized testing. This group includes those that believe that standardized tests are stacked against certain student populations and that these students can’t possibly pass them. It also includes those who argue that high-stakes testing causes people to cheat by promoting a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation. There are still others who identify these forms of testing as disruptions to the educational process which limit a teacher’s creativity. The membership of this team are primarily made up of teachers, students, parents, and advocates for minority populations.
In another corner there is GROUP #2:
Those pushing for greater incentives for achieving high scores on standardized tests, or more punitive measures for those who have not made the grade. Proponents of incentives like No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top, some government officials, educational reform groups and philanthropists fall into this category.
Then there is the partnership of GROUP #3:
The attack on public education and the bust the unions groups. Several educational reformers, and politicians fall into this category as well. They often use the debate on testing as an opportunity to demonize teachers. They say the teachers who cheated with their students’ scores did so, because they were bad people. They paint the average public school as a haven for lazy, ineffective, uncaring, and self serving teachers. They are all about firing teachers and closing public schools. The union busters take that argument further, explaining how badly we need to get rid of the Unions, which only exist to keep those bad teachers employed and failing schools open.
Now that I’ve started off the list, please feel free to add your comments, views, and/or solutions.
Below are some links to related articles:
- Here’s why schools need standardized testing (bangordailynews.com)
- Five absurdities about high-stakes standardized tests (washingtonpost.com)
- The NY Times Tires of Testing (dianeravitch.net)
- High-Stakes Testing in American Public Schools (stuvoice.org)