Sent to the New York Times, September 3, 2010
Arne Duncan plans new tests, tightly linked to standards, to be given throughout the year ("US asks educators to reinvent student tests, and how they are given," Sept. 2).
We can't afford it: Test construction, validation, revision, etc. will cost billions, at a time when school are short of funds, when many science classes have no lab equipment, school libraries have few books, school years are being shortened, and teachers are losing their jobs.
The tests will have a devastating effect on teaching: Regular, standards-linked testing means a lock-step uniform curriculum, destroying what little is left of teacher flexibility and autonomy.
They are unnecessary. Research suggests that teacher evaluation (grades) is an excellent measure of student progress and achievement, and we already have a standardized test useful for comparisons: The NAEP, given every few years to small groups of students, with results extrapolated to estimate how larger groups would do.
Some sources: Grades as measures of progress and achievement:
Bowen, W., Chingos, M., and McPherson, M. 2009. Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Universities. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Geiser, S. and Santelices, M.V., 2007. Validity of high-school grades in predicting student success beyond the freshman year: High-school record vs. standardized tests as indicators of four-year college outcomes. Research and Occasional Papers Series: CSHE 6.07, University of California, Berkeley. http://cshe.berkeley.edu
Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/education/03testing.html