Teachers across the country are escalating the debate over standardized tests. The issue is whether certain high-stakes standardized tests are effective in evaluating students’ achievement and should be used to assess teachers’ effectiveness.
The revolt by Seattle public school teachers, joining educators and students elsewhere, comes at a time of bitter political wrangling over how best to reinvigorate a $525 billion public school system that leaves American children lagging their counterparts in countries like Finland and South Korea.
Yearly testing in reading and math for elementary school students required by former President George W. Bush’s 2002 landmark testing law, known as “No Child Left Behind,” exposed stark achievement gaps in many schools, mainly along racial and economic lines, and spurred interventions to help struggling kids.
Sandy Kress, a former advisor to Bush on the law and lobbyist for Pearson, a company that publishes academic tests, said focusing too much on test scores alone will, in the end, cheat students out of the kind of quality education that sometimes can’t be measured by standardized tests.
“If it’s all back to just grades … a lot of people will have an easy time for about 10 years, (but later) our kids will suffer dramatically,” Kress said.
The Obama administration supports regular testing but has signaled some flexibility.
“Should you assess kids every year? Yes,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said recently. He added he was “more than sympathetic” to growing concerns about over-testing in school districts, some of which run standardized tests multiple times each year.
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