Friday, July 16, 2004

PFAW comes through again

This is more like it.  The issue isn't just: 'we need to fully fund this bill'.  PFAW questions high-stakes testing.
High-Stakes Testing Leaving Some Behind?

Arguably, the most visible parts of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) are its accountability provisions. The most controversial of these are the annual, high-stakes tests used in many states to determine how well students learn and retain knowledge. Administered in third through tenth grades, these tests are used to ensure students have mastered the knowledge they will need to advance to the next grade. However, some educators believe these tests are leading to student frustration, increasing disinterest in school and even school dropouts.Research on such application of high-stakes testing has found that holding kids back does not generally help improve their grades and that retention increases their risk of dropping out of school. These findings have done little to curb their use.
They find evidence high-stakes testing is not the panacea touted which would improve public education.
Different groups are now looking into the situation in more detail. A Virginia child-advocacy group believes the state’s Standards of Learning (SOL) exam may be responsible for causing some students to drop out of school and has asked that a study be conducted to determine if a connection exists. I attached this following line to this paragraph. The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University has published a report entitled Losing Our Future that addresses concerns over what they call a crisis regarding graduation rates of minority youth. ( course, testing can be a useful and valuable component of teaching and learning. Teachers prepare and regularly use tests to make informed decisions about what their students understand and retain through lessons, research, and study. Likewise, standardized tests allow schools and school districts to compare themselves with their peer schools and to make modifications in curricula and materials to better meet the needs of students and staff. These activities are necessary. But expecting all students to perform equally is naïve at best and, at worst misguided.In the continuing effort to make sure all children have an equal opportunity to attend high-quality schools with high standards for achievement and development, it is essential to make sure that tools designed to help students achieve success in school, do not turn students away from academics altogether.
As they point out, there is value in testing. I do agree. I'm not against standardized tests per se.   However, attaching punishing consequences to test scores is simply not fair.  These tests do not guarentee the kids are really learning.  They only show how well kids take the test.  But is it a measure of how well they've learned? Test scores are nowhere near  a complete measure of the quality of a child's education.  To attach such incredibly punishing consequences to test scores is beyond reason.