"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Elevator Speech on Harm of High Stakes Testing


Dov Rosenberg posted this on Facebook and I think it's going viral. 

WORKING LIST! Why Testing & Privatization are Harmful - Not Helpful - to Public Education




by Dov Rosenberg on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 10:12am


A) High stakes tests & charter schools make public schools less effective.
High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.
B) Less than 20% of privately-managed public schools (charter schools) are successful; they also segregate children and minimize the decision-making power of parents & the community, ultimately making 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 tests 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.
  • 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.
  • More established parents move to private schools to avoid the abundance of testing in public schools.
  • 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, administrators, and school districts to cheat
Less than 20% of charter schools are successful:
  • Even the pro-charter documentary "Waiting for Superman" notes that only 1 in 6 charter schools succeed.
  • Charter schools can artificially inflate their published success rate by deflecting low-scoring kids back to public schools, usually
Charter schools segregate children:
  • Most charter schools are racially homogenous.
  • Without diversity requirements, charter schools can market to specific demographics, ultimately segregating communities.
  • Children from the same neighborhood often go to different schools, don't know each other, & don't play outside together. Alienation negatively impacts neighborhood communities.
Charter schools minimize the decision-making power of parents & the community:
  • Private control, as opposed to elected control via school board, leaves curricula to be defined by a corporate agenda.
  • Corporate-controlled charter school home offices are often centralized out of state.
  • One more thing for parents & kids to worry about as they wait for acceptance letters.
  • Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that the people closest to (& therefore most knowledgeable about) problems are the best positioned to deal with them.
Charter schools make public schools less effective:
  • Taxpayer dollars are deflected from public schools into charter schools where they're utilized w/o transparency or accountability.
  • Charter schools have the freedom to select high-achieving kids w/ few needs so low-achieving kids w/ high needs get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Charter schools aren't obligated to provide special services for high-needs kids so they often get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Only families who can navigate application processes can apply to a charter. Families w/o the time or know-how to "work the system" (often very poor and/or immigrant families) are ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Private entities have already tried running school districts according to corporate models & seen disastrous results.








Special thanks to Marion Brady, from whom I borrowed heavily!

2 comments:

  1. Great piece but I would like to add the following:
    High-stakes tests:
    •Destroy exposure to diversity of opinion or approaches to problem solving contributed by children who think differently; e.g., ADD children or Left-handed children
    • Rob the majority of children from hearing how the background of minority children might lead to different approaches;
    • Rob children of exposure to process of discovery of the best answer and process (or assumptions) that lead to incorrect answers
    • Rob children of exposure to the competition of ideas (possible solutions to a problem) and thrill of the discovery of the correct (best) answer;
    • Mislead children into thinking that being able to ‘get the correct answer’ will greatly increase their ability to get a decent job when they graduate (which the system can not guarantee because it does not know ‘what the future holds’) and to resentment when that turns out not to be the case

    High-stakes tests – and use of ‘value-added’ concept for teacher evaluation:
    •Undermine collegial processes by which teachers learn from each other;
    • Undermine the idea that some teachers would normally ascend to a level of ‘mastery’ and become inspirational to others;
    • Remove the incentive for teachers to search for new ingenious methods of overcoming learning problems;
    • Virtually short-circuit the natural process of convergence (between teacher and student) that is fundamental to the communication of knowledge from one to the other which throws the balance off in the direction of the authoritarian model of teaching).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great list but here are a few more reasons to oppose this testing:
    but I would add the following:
    High-stakes tests:
    • Destroy exposure to diversity of approaches to problem solving contributed by children who think differently; e.g., ADD children or Left-handed children
    • Rob children of exposure to process of discovery of the best answer and process (or assumptions) that lead to incorrect answer
    • Rob children of exposure to the competition of ideas (possible solutions to a problem) and thrill of the discovery of the correct (best) answer;
    • Mislead children into thinking that being able to ‘get the correct answer’ will greatly increase their ability to get a decent job when they graduate (which the system can not guarantee because it does not know ‘what the future holds’) and to resentment when that turns out not to be the case;
    • Are to be used to populate Longitudinal Databases (at State and National levels) with test-score data (from 4th grade on) along with characteristics and identities of the child, teacher and school; given the access to the US Congress that big money has given the 1%, there should be no doubt that these databases (which are already being established and populated using RttT grant money in 30 to 40 states) will be accessible to corporations for purposes of identifying children who show (by their answers to certain bubble-test questions) that they fit the profiles (in terms of compliance and basic logic abilities) that characterize the type of employees they will be looking for 5 to 10-years in the future. It is also hardly preventable for corporations to (legally or surreptitiously) to get some of their own questions added to the standard tests to enable them to better identify the potential employees for tracking through grade school.

    ReplyDelete