Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Harmful Effects of High Stakes Testing

The following comes to us from Dov Rosenberg, Instructional Technology Facilitator from Durham, NC.
  •     High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.

    High-stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability:
    • *Constrict wide expanses of knowledge into only what can be measured by a multiple choice test.
    • *Many contain nonsensical questions, have multiple correct answers, or have no right answers at all (look up Pineapplegate).
    • *With hundreds of millions of American kids taking the same test, ethnic & regional differences aren’t considered, making them unavoidably culturally biased.
    • *Unduly reward the superficial ability to retrieve info from the short-term memory.
    • *Pass/Fail status is often determined by politicians while test scores are often manipulated for political purposes.
    • National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: “Standardized tests have not increased student achievement.”
    • Measure only low-level thought processes, trivializing true learning.
    • Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; scoring errors can have life-changing consequences.
    • Curricula constructed from high-stakes tests are based on what legislators assume children will need to know in the future. Countless previous attempts at predicting the future have ended in failure.
    • Are often only marginally aligned with curricular standards.
    • Provide minimal feedback that is useful to classroom teachers.
    • Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (common in children).
    • Test results are not able to predict future success.
    • Claimed to be used as a diagnostic tool to maximize student learning, but are actually used to punish students, teachers, & schools.
    High-stakes tests are harmful to children:
    • *Minimal time for socializing & physical activity b/c recess & PE are cut in favor of test prep, particularly affecting low-scoring students.
    • *Testing anxiety has lead to sickness, vomiting, & even incontinence in the classroom.
    • *Excessive testing stifles the love of learning.
    • *Year-end tests require sitting still & staying focused for 3.5 hours, which leads to behavior problems.
    • *Encourage the promise of extrinsic motivators such as rewards for high scores (bribes) & punishments for low scores (threats).
    • Pressure to pass tests has lead to stimulant abuse in teenagers.
    High stakes tests make public schools less effective:
    • *The lowest & highest achievers are left out as instructional resources are focused on learners at or near the pass/fail threshold.
    • *Fewer opportunities for kids to enjoy creative classes that make them love school.
    • *Arts & other electives are cut in favor of test prep & testing, particularly affecting students from low-income families.
    • *Children don’t receive adequate instruction in non-tested areas like science, history, geography, government, etc.
    • *Divert billions of state taxpayer funds from public schools to pay huge testing firms like Pearson & ETS (Educational Testing Services).
    • *Divert precious time resources to test facilitation, preparation (such as begging proctors to volunteer), & administration.
    • *As top private schools have rejected high stakes testing, more affluent families have moved their children out of public & charter schools, where high stakes tests are unavoidable.
    • When test scores trigger automatic retentions, much older students in classrooms can cause additional behavior problems
    • On norm-referenced tests, nationally, 50% of students are below average, by definition.  Thus, requiring all students to be at or above “grade level” is statistically impossible.
    • Give testing firms control of the curriculum
    • Test scores are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness in lieu of more effective administrator observations
    • Reduces teacher creativity & autonomy, thereby reducing the appeal of teaching as a profession
    • Minimize teachers’ ability to accomodate multiple learning styles and provide adequate differentiation
    • Create unreasonable pressure on students & teachers to cheat as well as on administrators & school districts to ”game the system”

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