Sent to USA Today, July 18 Re: Today's Debate, July 18
USA Today thinks that the heavy testing required by NCLB was necessary because of poor student achievement, which in turn was due to inept teachers protected by unions and failing schools that were allowed to stay open.
Studies show that American students in well-funded schools who come from middle-class families outscore students in nearly all other countries on international tests. Our average scores are unspectacular because the US has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries (over 20%; in contrast, high-scoring Finland has less than 4%). The major problem is poverty, not teachers and not unions.
Poverty means inadequate nutrition, inadequate health care, exposure to environmental toxins, and little access to books, all strongly associated with lower school performance.
The US Department of Education is planning the most expensive and extensive testing program ever seen on the planet, far beyond the already excessive amount required by NCLB. Increasing testing does not lead to increased achievement, and the money should be spent protecting children from the effects of poverty. When all our children have adequate health care and access to books, and no child is left unfed, American academic achievement will satisfy the harshest critic.
USA Today editorial: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2011-07-17-test-school-cheating-scandals_n.htm
American students in well-funded schools …
Berliner, D. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. In press.
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality. Educational Research Service
Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
Poverty and hunger, health and access to books:
Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential
Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership 55(4): 18-22.
Martin, M. 2004. A strange ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in “failing schools.” http://www.azsba.org/lead.htm.
Increasing testing does not increase achievement:
Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/.