Magazine article District Administration

Does Skipping High-Stakes Tests Increase Grad Rates?

Magazine article District Administration

Does Skipping High-Stakes Tests Increase Grad Rates?

Article excerpt

An alliance of New York schools continues to drop high-stakes tests in favor of performance-based assessments as the opt-out movement gathers steam.

The New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of 38 New York public high schools (all but two of which are in New York City), operates under a waiver program that allows members to administer more practical assessments, such as experiments, research papers and artwork. Students also must defend their work to outside evaluators.

"We've had 50 years of testing, most of it high-stakes, and it hasn't resulted in significant improvement," says Ann Cook, executive director of the consortium, which was founded in 1998. "We need to be more imaginative. We're spending a lot of money and causing kids a lot of anxiety, with not a lot of evidence to show that it's effective."

The consortium has shown promising results: 77 percent of students who started in participating high schools in fall 2010 graduated in four years, compared to 68 percent for all New York City students. And last year, 71 percent of English language learners graduated on time, versus 37 percent citywide.

Performance-based assessments

All standards used in the schools align with the Common Core, Cook says. In place of PARCC or Smarter Balanced, the consortium's performance-based assessments require students to demonstrate analytical thinking, reading comprehension and research writing skills. They also need to show understanding of the scientific method and problem-solving techniques. …

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