IN THE NEWS:  Corey Rosenlee says high-stakes testing has detrimental impact


High-stakes testing has detrimental impact

By Corey Rosenlee

POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 27, 2015

We need to start listening to our teachers, our parents and our students—the people most affected by testing—and end high-stakes testing. We should be teaching our children to be creative and to be problem solvers, not just test takers.

Recent research by the Council of Great City Schools, a coalition of large urban public schools systems, shows that students take an average of 113 standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade. It is so bad now, that a recent Gallup survey about “The Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools” showed that 67 percent of public school parents believed that there was too much testing, and only 14 percent of them said tests were a good measurement of school effectiveness.

In a separate Gallup poll, 89 percent of teachers were against linking high-stakes test scores to evaluations. Last year, the entire 11th-grade class of Nathan Hale High School in Seattle opted out of testing, and in New Mexico’s Albuquerque High, students staged a walkout against testing.

These toxic tests are not designed to improve a child’s learning, but instead are designed to label teachers and schools as failures. How else could you describe a test where the results are not given to teachers until after the student has already moved to another grade? Third graders are supposed to take a test that takes seven hours and 11th graders take a test that can take over 8-1/2 hours. The test is more about their endurance than a measure of their actual knowledge. Students get so tired of taking the test that they just give up. Why shouldn’t they? There are no consequences for students if they fail the test.

Some would then say that we should tie the scores to students’ grades. The problem is these tests create an arbitrary cut score that are purposefully and with intention designed so most students are labeled failures.

If anyone believes that these cut scores are accurate measurements of our students’ abilities and that the majority of our students are failing, then I challenge them to take the test themselves. I would bet that most of the proponents of high-stakes testing would fail.

Deeming our teachers and schools as failures has real consequences. A large percentage of students in high-poverty districts have been deemed failures on the test, which puts tremendous pressure on these teachers to raise test scores. However, since they cannot change their students’ socio-economic status, the one factor that teachers can control is the amount of time they spend on tested subjects. This means in a high-poverty district, teachers are increasing the amount of time they spend on math and reading, while other subjects like science, social studies, art, music and Hawaiian Studies are either dramatically decreased or eliminated completely. This method does not teach to the whole child.

This also explains why schools in high-poverty districts experience the highest teacher turnover. When teachers’ salaries are tied to the results of student test scores, many teachers decide that it is better to teach in a wealthier neighborhood, leaving teachers with the least amount of experience in areas where quality teachers are needed the most.

High-stakes testing does not improve education. That is why Hawaii’s major private schools do not use the Smarter Balanced Assessment test and instead do something amazing: they trust their teachers to develop innovative curriculum and assessments based on their students’ needs. Teachers are given academic freedom and treated as professionals. Students are given a well-rounded curriculum and project-based learning, where they are allowed to think and be creative.

Don’t all of our keiki deserve schools like these?