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Topic: [ncsm-members] High Stakes Tests Harm Students and Teachers
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] High Stakes Tests Harm Students and Teachers
Posted: Jun 28, 2012 2:34 PM
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From the New York Civil Liberties Union, Wednesday, June 27, 2012.
High Stakes Tests Harm Students and Teachers, Undermine Equity in New
York's Schools

June 27, 2012 - New York's over-reliance on high-stakes standardized
testing harms students, teachers and public schools, with especially
harsh consequences for high-need students and the teachers and
schools that serve them, according to a letter signed by more than
1,100 New York State professors and released Wednesday by the New
York Civil Liberties Union.

The experts - from across the state, in disciplines that include
education, law, statistics, history, psychology and anthropology -
offered professional expertise to help the state generate multiple
pathways for accountability. The letter was released during a panel
of educators and academics convened by the NYCLU focusing on the
problems associated with an over-reliance on high-stakes testing.

"Academics across New York call on the State Education Department to
explore alternative testing strategies," said Michelle Fine,
distinguished professor of psychology, urban education and women's
studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York who
organized the movement behind the letter. "We are eager to work with
state education leaders on assessments that meet federal No Child
Left Behind guidelines, but would not promote the disparate impact of
testing on high-need youth, undermine teacher professionalism or be a
criterion for school closings."

Students of color, English language learners (ELLs) and children with
special education needs are unduly punished by high-stakes
assessments that are mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind
Act, and are increasingly used as instruments to close public schools
and denigrate teachers, hurting the city's most vulnerable youth.

The harmful consequences of the heavy emphasis on high-stakes testing
include narrowed curricula, as teachers and schools are pressured to
prepare students for make-or-break standardized exams - and an
academic culture that values test scores over open-ended inquiry and
innovative instruction.

"Alternative assessments are not a retreat from accountability - to
the contrary, they promote greater equity in the public schools and
more accurately assess student growth and learning," Fine said.
"There are many rigorous strategies for documenting student strengths
and needs that do not risk the adverse impact of high-stakes testing
on struggling students, educators, and schools."

The New York City Department of Education has closed more than 140
schools since 2003, largely based on student testing data. In 2012,
the DOE publicly released "value-added" teacher-evaluation ratings,
based on student test scores, which the DOE originally asserted
should never be made public, or used to make employment decisions.
Formalizing test-based teacher ratings was integral to New York's
successful application for federal Race to the Top education funding.

"The strategy currently employed by New York City Department of
Education and the State Education Department is not working for
students, teachers or schools," said Pedro Noguera, Professor of
Education and executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban
Education at New York University. "High-stakes standardized tests are
being used to rank and measure students and teachers, and to punish
schools, rather than as tools to diagnose learning needs and inform

"Where is the evidence to support the use of student-testing
information to terminate teachers," asked Douglas Biklen, dean of the
School of Education at Syracuse University, critiquing the process of
so-called value-added teacher evaluations promoted by the U.S.
Department of Education, the State Education Department and the New
York City Department of Education.

Statewide, teachers whose jobs are threatened by test scores will
resist working with high-need, ELL and special-education students,
Biklen said. Student teachers will be considered liabilities, and
aspiring teachers as well as accomplished veterans will decline posts
in struggling, hard-to-serve urban schools, where low test scores
could doom a school to closure.

"Alternatives to high-stakes testing are lacking in the U.S. because
No Child Left Behind strictures bind schools to standardized tests,"
said Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York
University and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings
Institution. "These tests represent a lack of basic trust in teachers
and students. The consequences are narrowed curricula, teaching to
the test and gaming the system. We say we want bright, creative
people to enter and thrive in the teaching profession, but the
culture of testing-and-consequences essentially says we don't trust
you to innovate, to create - or to teach."

"Students can succeed when they're challenged and engaged," said Ann
Cook, executive director of the New York Performance Standards
Consortium, a coalition of New York state public high schools, who
presented the Consortium's model of performance-based student
assessment as a valid, evidence-based alternative to standardized
testing. "Test prep and one-size-fits-all standardized testing do not
create an environment that excites young minds."

"New York's education leaders have the bully pulpit as a beacon of
progressive education reform," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna
Lieberman. "Tests have a place in education, but the over-reliance on
high-stakes testing as the defining marker for academic progress
deprives our children of their right to a good public education. We
must not squander the futures of New York's children or sacrifice
quality instruction to meet political agendas. All of our students
and their teachers deserve better."

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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