Saturday, January 2, 2016

Three Problems With the Argument That Testing Is a Civil Rights Measure

1. Advocates for this position say we need to test every student in every grade to know which schools are failing. In truth, anyone with a modicum of common sense can visit schools in a district and tell which ones are doing a good job serving their students and which ones aren't, Testing is only one indicator of school performance and not necessarily the most effective one.
2. Testing every student in every grade turns all instruction into test prep, crowding out activities which promote student engagement and student creativity. In high poverty schools which fear being closed if test scores don't rise, the damage is even more far reaching. Recess, gym and the arts are eliminated to make room for test prep and in the worst instances students who perform poorly on tests may be pushed out of schools
3. High stakes testing is likely to increase performance gaps by race and class. Schools who fear the consequences of low test scores will create such a tense and authoritarian atmosphere that the best teachers leave, depriving students of the mentoring from lifetime educators they need to succeed, Teacher temps, and revolving door terrorized teaching staffs will not help students in low income neighborhoods acquire the self confidence and skills they need to succeed. Nothing could do more to increase inequality than the punitive regime of turnaround and receivership schools which exists in almost every state. The result of this policy is a growing contrast between schools in high income communities  which have lifetime educators and a full variety of arts and sports programs while schools in low income communities have revolving door teaching staffs and round the clock test prep. That is where an obsession with testing is taking us.