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How Standardized Tests Undercut Parenting, Teaching, and Schools

April 29, 2015

Huffington Post blogger Stacy Steinberg’s latests post, “Set Up to Fail: High Stakes Testing in Public Schools” describes the impact of testing on administrators, teachers, and especially parents. Steinberg asserts that standardized tests are designed to “prove” schools are failing knowing that the tests will prove what we already know: the schools serving children raised in poverty will “fail” while the schools serving children raised in affluence will “succeed”.:

High stakes testing sets a child up to fail.

Even when a school employs hardworking teachers and has the support of parents and local business partners, some schools serve students that live in homes that fall below the poverty line. Research tells us that the number one indicator of how a child will perform on a standardized test is whether or not that child lives in poverty. Our flawed standardized testing model sets even the most talented teacher up to fail.

Unlike many critics of the standardized testing regimen, Steinberg appreciates the bind administrators face, noting that they:

…are caught between trying to provide quality education to… students and maintaining the financial backing from the state to do so. Unfortunately, these goals are often mutually exclusive. High stakes testing sets up even the most altruistic school administrator up to fail.

But the lion’s share of her post is directed at parents. Noting that parents work hard to provide opportunities for their children to thrive and be creative before they enter school, once they arrive to school they find an environment that stifles creativity and focuses on test preparation:

You watch as important subjects like history, art, and music drop from the curriculum as these subjects are not covered by the common core curriculum. You know your child needs an empathetic and patient teacher, yet you watch as teachers shift focus because of standardized testing standards. Assets like empathy and patience work against our best teachers who know their performance review will be based on how much and how quickly your student is able to learn. Perhaps worst of all, your child takes her first standardized test and comes home reporting that she was required to sign a piece of paper promising not to talk to you about the test or the testing procedure itself.
This leaves Steinberg with a sense that she, as a parent, is being set up to fail! She concludes by encouraging parents to write to their legislators sharing their concerns and urging them to do whatever is possible to put an end to this testing. This compelled me to leave the following comment:
Before you write, you might want to see what the Presidential candidates and your legislators think of this approach to education… and in the case of the Presidential candidates who is funding them. Are they claiming “schools are failing” based on these test results? Are they supporting the state or corporate takeover of “failing schools”? Are they claiming the solution to “failing schools” is to give parents more choices WITHOUT requiring that ALL schools open their doors to ALL students?
At this juncture (Bernie Sanders has not officially announced his candidacy), every single Presidential candidate supports the continued emphasis on testing and at least 33 Governors insist that standardized tests are the best way to measure school performance. At this juncture NCLB is the law of the land and the pending federal legislation will not end the testing regimen. And, at this juncture states have invested heavily in the new computerized tests and expect to use those tests for the foreseeable future. At this juncture, it is not too late to change the course of public education, but the odds of making the change are approaching the odds of us taking action to address climate change.
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