Discontinue High-Stakes Testing
It is time to reestablish a statewide commitment to equitable, meaningful, and learner-centered education. Public education in Rhode Island is becoming severely compromised by “educational reforms” that advance privatization, disempower teachers, harm students, and siphon public monies away from public schools and their students and into the coffers of multi-million dollar test publishers. The result for Rhode Island’s children and teachers is a test-driven education that has transformed our schools from centers of learning into test preparation centers where students are thought of as products, scores, and commodities.
We respectfully present this statement to the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, the Chair of the Board of Education, the Governor and key legislators. As teacher educators, researchers and concerned college and university faculty in Rhode Island, we strongly oppose the use of high-stakes testing to evaluate student achievement, assess teacher competency, and judge school quality. Research shows that, at every level, family income is the single best predictor of student achievement and that the main effect of high-stakes tests is to raise the dropout rate among low-income students in both secondary and higher education.
In the face of this evidence, even the developers of the NECAP tests advise against their use as a graduation requirement. High-stakes tests narrow instruction at every level, harm English language learners, impede students with disabilities, require schools to spend enormous amounts of instructional time on test preparation, and incentivize cheating.
And, it is not only students who are harmed. Just as the state plans to deny students a high school diploma based on a single test, so too does it intend to make decisions about teacher competency by examining student test scores, despite the lack of evidence for this approach. Teacher education has also been sorely compromised by this wave of “reform” as the starting gate is now blocked in Rhode Island by another set of high-stakes tests, the Praxis exams, even though there is no evidence that performance on these tests is correlated with teaching ability.
Rhode Island’s educational policy makers are headed in the wrong direction: testing and test preparation do not foster learning. Our guiding principles should, instead, be informed by the learning and developmental needs of students and created together by families and professional educators in the community – those who are in the best position to understand student needs and who are vested in their aspirations for the future.
Research and Policy Support
American Educational Research Association (2000). AERA Position Statement on High-Stakes Testing in PreK -12 Education. http://www.aera.net/AboutAERA/AERARulesPolicies/AERAPolicyStatements/PositionStatementonHighStakesTesting/tabid/11083/Default.aspx
Amrein, A. L. & Berliner, D. C. (2002, March 28). High-stakes testing, uncertainty, and student learning. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(18). Retrieved May15, 2005 from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n18/
Baker, E. et al. (2009). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper. Available at http://epi.3cdn.net/b9667271ee6c154195_t9m6iij8k.pdf
Berliner, D.C. (2006). Our impoverished view of educational reform. Teachers College Recordhttp://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=12106.
CReATE, 2012. “Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher and Principal Evaluation.” Available at http://createchicago.blogspot.com/2012/03/misconceptions-and-realities-about.html
Hinde, E. R. 2003, May 27. The tyranny of the test: Elementary teachers’ conceptualizations of the effects of state standards and mandated tests on their practice. Current Issues in Education [On-line], 6(10). Available at http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume6/number10/
Hout, M. and Elliott, S.W. Editors. 2011. Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press), 30. Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12521.
Koretz, D. M. (2008). Measuring up: What educational testing really tells us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Moon, T. R., Callahan, C. M., & Tomlinson, C. A. 2003, April 28. Effects of state testing programs on elementary schools with high concentrations of student poverty-good news or bad news? Current Issues in Education, 6(8). Available at http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume6/number8/
The New England Common Assessment Program: “The Guide to using the 2012 NECAP Reports.” http://ride.ri.gov/assessment/DOCS/NECAP/Reports_Results/10.2012/Guide_to_Using_the_2012_NECAP_Reports.pdf
Nichols, S. N. & Berliner, D. C. (2005). The inevitable corruption of indicators and educators through high-stakes testing. Tempe, AZ: College of Education, Education Policy Studies.Laboratory Report EPSL-0503-101-EPRU. Retrieved May 15, 2005 from: http://www.asu.edu
Nichols, S.L. & Berliner, D.C. (2007). Collateral damage: How high stakes testing corrupts America’s schools. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.