Testing Should Inform, Not Impede, Teaching and Learning
The current generation of low-level, high-stakes tests—and their extreme misuse as a result of ideologically and politically driven education policy—has not improved our schools. Indeed, several studies have shown the exact opposite: test-based rewards and sanctions for schools have slowed our progress in narrowing the achievement gap and have diverted attention away from many other important educational goals.
Appropriate assessments are an integral part of a high-quality public education. By contrast, the current test-and-punish accountability model has seriously damaged public education. We have lost vital parts of the curriculum because they are not subject to testing. Student learning time has been sacrificed in favor of testing and test preparation. Teachers have been led to focus their attention on the students closest to passing the tests, at the expense of developing every student’s full potential. All of this has stifled teachers’ ability to develop all students’ capacity to think deeply, critically and creatively, and has driven many talented teachers from classrooms that desperately need them. This loss has been especially pronounced in the schools and classrooms serving America’s neediest children, adding further insult to the injury of poverty and other social challenges.
In short, the inappropriate and punitive use of assessments, which too often are low quality to begin with, has eclipsed teaching in too many schools. It is time to restore a proper balance to public education, and to ensure that assessments--as important as they are-- inform and not impede teaching and learning.
- We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and align with curriculum rather than narrow it; that are developed through collaborative efforts, not picked off a shelf; that are focused on measuring growth and continuous development instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn; that rely on diverse, authentic, and multiple indicators of student performance rather than filling in bubbles; and that provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.
- Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention --essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. Specifically, wecall on the consortia currently developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards to do their part in solving this by including the crucial voices of teachers in the development of these assessments. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.