Magazine article District Administration

Common Core: More Testing Madness, Not the Sound Assessments We Need: Over-Reliance on Test Scores to Make Decisions Could Lead to Innaccurate Results

Magazine article District Administration

Common Core: More Testing Madness, Not the Sound Assessments We Need: Over-Reliance on Test Scores to Make Decisions Could Lead to Innaccurate Results

Article excerpt

The country's obsession with high-stakes testing is an expensive, destructive failure. Students who can least afford it pay the biggest price.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress shows the United States made faster progress toward improving math and reading scores, and closing gaps among racial groups, before the federal No Child Left Behind law than has been made since. The law has not only failed to drive better school quality and equity, it has caused real harm on both counts. Unfortunately, the coming Common Core tests will mean even more testing insanity, but not significantly better assessments or improved schools.

NCLB has promoted widespread teaching to the test and pushed out important subjects like music, art, social studies, and science. It has damaged school climate and student engagement and contributed to a national epidemic of cheating. It has fostered student pushouts, feeding the "school-to-prison pipeline." The harm has been most severe in schools serving low-income communities.

The law's negative consequences have fueled a growing national rebellion against test overuse and misuse. Parents, students, and teachers have organized, boycotted tests, demonstrated, and won victories at state and local levels.

National leaders acknowledge NCLB's failures. Education Secretary Arne Duncan decried teaching to the test and the loss of attention to non-tested subjects. President Obama told NBC's Education Nation, "I can't tell you how many teachers I meet who say, 'You know what? [NCLB's focus on tests] makes school less interesting for kids. And as a consequence, I'm ending up really shrinking my curriculum, what I can do in terms of creativity inside the classroom.'"

Tragically, some of our best teachers have already been driven out. In her viral resignation video, Illinois teacher Ellie Rubenstein said, "Raising students' test scores on standardized tests is now the only goal, and in order to achieve it, the creativity, flexibility, and spontaneity that create authentic learning environments have been eliminated."

Einstein's definition of insanity

Of course, we need better assessment systems. What we have now--standardized test scores in a few academic subjects--gives a narrow and misleading picture of our students and schools. …

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