Education Letter to the Editor

Even Cheap, High-Stakes Testing Is a Waste

November 07, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

In “The Truth About Testing Costs,” Bill Tucker reveals the cheapness of our current standardized-testing regimes (Commentary, Oct. 12, 2011). Garbage in, garbage out.

Then his Commentary constructs a false forced choice for critics of high-stakes standardized-test regimes. Either we can “rail against the costs of testing,” he claims, or we can work to “significantly improve both the practice and the process of large-scale student assessment.”

No thanks. Our duty lies elsewhere. As Linda Darling-Hammond, Diane Ravitch, and many others have explained repeatedly, nations that outscore us consistently don’t employ high-stakes standardized testing.* Rather they work on continuous improvement of the educational system, with a focus on both improving the efficacy of teachers and on personalizing care and learning for each student.

Mr. Tucker writes that “the country is sure to continue its efforts to gauge objectively the educational progress of its students.” Only if we persist in confusing the map with the territory. The standards-and-high-stakes-testing paradigm—everybody learns the same stuff at the same time, or we punish them and their teachers—is very much like building automobiles the way Henry Ford did in 1930. It’s based on an antiquated modernist notion of learning and an image of a society that existed prior to the Internet.

The future of meaningful education rests in educating each child as an individual. That makes standardized testing a waste of money, even at $14 per kid.

David Marshak

Bellingham, Wash.

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2011 edition of Education Week as Even Cheap, High-Stakes Testing Is a Waste