High Stakes Testing No. 158
Conservative groups increasingly press to privatize schools in the name of reform. Obvious efforts include support for charter schools and vouchers, tuition credits, and tax deductions. Proponents point to low-performing schools as evidence of the need for higher standards and increased accountability.
High stakes testing has emerged as a substitute for constructive steps to encourage school excellence. One of the central tenets of Bush's 2001 "No Child Left Behind" Act was Congressional reauthorization of ESEA mandating annual testing from grades 3-8 with penalties for schools whose students fail to achieve at identified benchmarks.
While ADA endorses the call for higher standards, we do not believe that testing is, in fact, the road to excellence. Tests are useful diagnostic and prescriptive purposes. However, multiple assessments of students' performance most accurately measure student progress. Teaching to the test has become the function of too many teachers in too many schools, thus taking time away from real education. It also deprives students of the opportunity to encounter the full scope of the subject being studied. Simultaneously, we question the use of a single measure of a student, staff and school performance. ADA supports separate and appropriate testing for diagnosed special needs children.
In addition, we believe that higher standards must be accompanied by adequate funding, expanded professional development for teachers, significantly higher teacher salaries, and the effective use of tests. We oppose:
High stakes testing creates another multi-million dollar industry depleting funds that could be better deployed creating and sustaining learning communities that promote high academic outcomes.
Reflecting the broad opposition to the ineffective and unfounded requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, many states have passed legislation freeing them from the onerous act. This revolt has been led by Republican-dominated Utah, demonstrating that the opposition is not a partisan issue.
We support multiple measures of student progress accompanied by the resources to ensure that students meet these standards.
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