Sent to Education Week, August 24, 2011
Schools are "facing tough budget choices" (August 24) and cutting back on teaching positions, tutors, support staff, summer programs, and extracurricular activities. According to an ASCD survey (SmartBrief poll, 2011-12), 78% of respondents said that they are "experiencing a lack of funding and it has affected student learning.
Unmentioned in the Ed Week article is the fact that at the same time money is so short, we are keeping a number of useless tests and actually increasing testing to astonishing levels, in the face of empirical evidence showing that these tests do not increase student achievement
A clear example of a current useless test is the High School Exit Exam used in many states. Studies consistently show that high school exit exams do not lead to more college attendance, increased student learning or higher employment. In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a high school exit exam.
The US Department of Education is planning an astonishing increase in testing. In addition to end-of-year tests, there will be tests in reading and math near the end of school year and testing several times during the year (interim testing), In addition, the Department is encouraging pre-testing in the fall and testing other subjects as well. Recently, the Department announced plans to test children before they enter kindergarten. In addition, all tests will be administered on-line, a huge expense. There is no evidence that the new tests will help children.
We all agree that assessment is part of teaching and learning, but our philosophy should be "no unnecessary testing": Determine which tests are useful and eliminate the others. Over-testing is choking our schools both intellectually and financially.
High school leaving exams, most recent review: Holme, J., Richards, M., Jimerson, J., and Cohen, R. 2010. Assessing the effects of high school exit examinations. Review of Educational Research 80 (4): 476-526.
No evidence the new tests will help: 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/.; OECD 2011. Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264096660-en