Skip to comments.Massachusetts Statement against High-Stakes Standardized Testing
Posted on 02/24/2013 10:22:32 AM PST by Lorianne
There has been a ground swell of opposition to the overuse and misuse of standardized testing across the United States. This includes statements from more than 670 Texas school boards, nearly one-third of all New York State principals, and hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals who have endorsed the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing. Against this backdrop, two significant statements have come from groups of educators and researchers in Chicago, Georgia and New York.We applaud these actions and have come together in solidarity with their efforts.
We respectfully present this statement to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, the Secretary of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) because you have it within your power to dramatically improve state assessment policies and thereby improve the learning opportunities and conditions for all of our students. We also copy this to the Governor and key legislators, as they too have the power to enact positive changes.
As educators and researchers from across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we strongly oppose our states continued overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing to assess student achievement, evaluate teacher effectiveness, and determine school quality. Given that standardized tests provide only one indicator of student achievement, and that their high-stakes uses produce ever-increasing incentives to teach to the test, narrow the curriculum, or even to cheat, we call on the BESE to stop using standardized tests in high-stakes decisions affecting students, teachers, and schools.
Researchers have documented, and a nine-year study by the National Research Council (Hout & Elliott, 2011) has confirmed, that the past decades emphasis on testing has yielded little learning progress. Further, testing experts and the test-makers themselves have consistently warned against using standardized tests for high-stakes decisions such as graduation or retention, or to hire, fire, or reward teachers (AERA, 2000). The tests provide only a snapshot of a limited range of knowledge and skills, so they can provide only limited information to teachers. Because the tests are not designed to determine teacher effectiveness, no accurate conclusions can be drawn about an individual teacher from her students test scores. Research indicates that a teachers impact on student learning cannot be reliably isolated from the myriad other factors that impact student learning (Baker et al., 2009). Finally, test experts have shown that test scores can be raised without increasing true student learning (Koretz, 2008), and that the higher the stakes attached to a test, the less trustworthy the test scores are. Cheating scandals in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and dozens of other major cities dramatically illustrate this problem. Problems with the use of MCAS interact with other educational problems, such as continued funding inequities and the growth of poverty within the state (MassBudget, 2012). While MCAS may help identify the consequences of inequities, its high-stakes uses exacerbate these consequences. These MCAS problems include but are not limited to:
Disparate impact on students. Numerous studies document that the use of high-stakes testing including test barriers to high school graduation bears adverse impact on students and is accompanied by widening racial/ethnic and income-based gaps. MCAS testing has not significantly reduced disparities in achievement or eliminated gaps, thus the negative consequences of the high-stakes tests fall disproportionately on the groups that most need help. In Massachusetts low-income, urban districts, large numbers of students perform below proficiency on the MCAS. Twice as many urban as suburban public high school graduates fail college placement tests in math and English and must take noncredit, remedial classes (Massachusetts DESE, 2008). Results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show a failure to achieve significant reduction in the achievement gap separating Massachusetts white students from African-American and Latino students since 2003. The negative effects of our high-stakes testing environment are perhaps most pronounced for English Language Learners (ELLs) for whom the tests were not designed who cumulatively and consistently fail to achieve proficiency within the limited school time of a year and a day before they are required to take the exam in English. According to a 2011 Gaston Institute report, In high school, about 18% of [ELL] students were retained in grade, many of them several times and many of them in the ninth grade to avoid having them fail the tenth grade MCAS graduation requirement. In Massachusetts, ELLs are, on average, nine times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers. The disparate impact of the graduation requirement on students with disabilities also is striking. For example, of the 2,798 students who did not pass all the required MCAS tests by the end of their senior year in 2011, 75% were students with disabilities. The fact remains that Massachusetts has placed the most severe accountability on the backs of its most disadvantaged students.
Negative impact on curriculum and instruction. Surveys of teachers in Massachusetts (Abrams et al., 2003; Clarke et al., 2003) and nationally (McMurrer, 2007; Moon et al., 2003; Hinde, 2003) show a marked increase in teaching to the test and narrowing the curriculum to tested subjects as a result of high-stakes testing. In addition, research compiled by the NRC and others shows this comes with a negative impact on school climate, often creating an environment of intimidation, fear, anxiety and stress for both teachers and their students, including kindergarten children (Hout & Elliott, 2011). Further, investigators of the Atlanta cheating scandal identified high-stakes testing as a cause of the problem (Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 2011). Under such conditions, it becomes difficult for teachers to create a learning environment that promotes creativity, critical thinking, risk-taking, experimentation and a love of learning. Moreover, as with other negative consequences, there is a disparate impact: teaching to the test, curricular narrowing and damaging school climates more frequently affect low income and minority students.
Negative impact on educators. High-stakes testing creates adverse consequences not only for students but also for educators. Researchers have challenged the validity, reliability, effectiveness, and ethics of using high-stakes test scores to evaluate educators. Further, as argued in an open letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel by Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE, 2012), There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement [and] Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, or students suffering from emotional issues. Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors. Student growth measures are not capable of identifying with reasonable accuracy and consistency over time who is or is not an effective teacher. Already some highly effective teachers are leaving the profession. Further, Massachusetts new system requires that measures of student learning be developed as part of annually evaluating every teacher in every subject and grade. This could further inundate students with testing and test preparation.
Negative impact on schools. The problems discussed above harm many schools, as well as their students and teachers individually. While federal law requires assessments, it does not require high-stakes standardized testing. There is nothing to prevent Massachusetts from using a very different assessment system, using multiple sorts of indicators gathered over time, as was proposed in the Education Reform Act of 1993.
Because of these and other problems with the high-stakes uses of standardized tests to evaluate students, teachers and schools, we call on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to:
Work with educators, parents and the public to craft a new assessment system that will more fully assess the many competencies our children need to succeed in the 21st century and that will avoid the current overreliance on standardized tests. Stop using MCAS test results as a barrier to high school graduation. Prohibit the use of test scores in educator evaluations and in decisions for hiring, firing, laying off or rewarding teachers. Focus teacher evaluations on the appropriate use of evidence-based teaching practices and a comprehensive set of indicators of classroom and school-based student learning rather than one-shot test scores. Stop using test scores to designate schools for punitive turnaround reform measures that mandate the firing of 50% or more of the staff. Focus turnaround reform efforts on school-wide, research-based approaches.
We know that reforming the current high-stakes testing system will take time and political capital, but we believe that it is not only possible but also imperative if we want to improve the lives of all children and ensure their future success. Given the recent unprecedented attention focused on problems with current testing practice, this is exactly the right time to transform recommendations into reality. Therefore, we make ourselves available to the BESE to assist in these efforts in whatever ways are necessary.
Opps...”has been” = “have been” (hey,I went to public schools)
If you can’t meet the standard, there must be something wrong with the standard. It couldn’t possibly be you.
The Democrats need an endless supply of low information voters. The process marches on........
Control the nation’s youth to control the nation’s future. The left has known this for generations now.
All “groups” don’t get the same scores.
Teachers could be evaluated.
THESE HERE TESTS BE BAD!
Good God...next thing "The Machine" will demand is that high school graduates are required to actually be able to read their diplomas.
In other words, standardized testing only works for students who speak English and have parents who give a rats butt about their kids and teachers that really care about a childs education. None of those items fit in with obama’s plans to keep the masses on his plantation.
Standardized testing is a good way to evaluate a student’s knowledge and ability but it is not a particularly good way to evaluate a teacher. Stupid people have stupid kids so any teacher that works in the ghetto is automatically penalized with a class full of morons.
Also, when principals become focused on test scores, the brightest students become virtual ghosts in the classroom. Teachers spend their time dragging morons over the line to pass and the smart kids play on the computer after quickly mastering the rudimentary skills that escape the dummies.
Leftists and teachers created this problem by making teachers political state employees who are difficult to fire. After seeing enough government class employees, the public has no faith in teachers and yet they foolishly allow the government to intervene even further by mandating testing and scores. Now good teachers are punished with the worst kids while weak teachers are given the best and brightest or are sheperded out of testing grades.
Until we have the political will to break the teachers unions and return schools to local or *gasp* private control, it will continue to get worse. If you have the ability or the means get your kids out of public school.
What? No mention of “norming” (hiding the decline)? Did you know that SAT scores today have 500 points added to what the scores were in 1967? i.e. a combined (math and English) SAT “score” of 1200 today would have been a combined score of 700 in 1967. http://knowhow2go.org is recruiting students from the criminal and illiterate generation with your tax money. Schools are offering a 100% online MBA in Social Media. The Navy is having to pay $70,000+ bonuses for E-5s with nuclear qualifications to reenlist. The Left has successfully destroyed a large part of the country’s ability to create educated, useful people.
A test is a tool. It is a means of determining the effectiveness of the teaching. It is a means of “seeing” the student. To take away this tool would be to blind the teacher in one area. It also blinds the parents and the society. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with national testing. How that information is used, is a different story. It’s like saying we should do away with thermometers because we don’t like fevers.
1)ALL students should have to take the same test else you are comparing apples and oranges when it comes to who is learning and who isn't from state to state
2)i have NO problem teaching to the test so long as what is on the test is what's required to function in the real world, get a job or continue their education, the problem is they have been teaching to the test for years and STILL half can't pass it
3)i think employers should have MUCH MORE SAY as to what is on the tests and required to graduate!
Not one useful thing in all of this academic palaver. Not even a mention of the other important “competencies” that need to be recognized.
Didn’t Romney protect the PR-born Lawrence schools superintendent that couldn’t pass the English test?
If standardized testing were used as a criterion for who could run for public office, the world would be very, very different (and in my view, better). Whereas I do not think that standardized testing is the ultimate determinant of ability and worthiness, I absolutely unequivocally do not think that where you went to college is a good determinant, and right now going to Yale or Harvard law school is a ticket to credibility in politics. I personally feel, very, very strongly, that standardized testing should be available for anyone to take to prove they’ve mastered a specific topic. If I never formally studied law, but used other available resources to learn it, and then passed the Bar, why should I not be able to say that I have fulfilled the basic criteria for being a lawyer?
They don’t want teachers held accountable if kids don’t learn anything but a girl who complains about a tranny-for-a-day in the girls bathroom can be punished.
It’s simple. really. All our Massachusetts children are Above Normal.
Yes. As much as I despise teachers' unions and the public school system, it is wrong to blame the teachers for the failures of the students. Once upon a time, it was assumed [correctly in my opinion] that it was the student's responsibility to get an education.
The teacher presented the material and the student either worked to learn it or didn't. It was, of course, the parents' responsibility to teach their children that an education was important and to help them when they had trouble understanding their lessons.
Schools cannot make up for bad parenting and it's unreasonable to expect them to do so.