To the Editor:
Schools are facing tough budget choices (“Districts Face Painful Cuts as School Year Begins,” Education Week, Aug. 24, 2011) and cutting back on teaching positions, tutors, support staff, summer programs, and extracurricular activities. According to an ASCD survey, 78 percent of educators said they are experiencing a lack of funding and it has affected student learning.
Unmentioned in Education Week is the fact that, at the same time money is so short, we are keeping a number of useless tests and actually increasing testing in the face of empirical evidence showing that these tests do not increase student achievement.
A clear example of a current useless test is the high school exit exam used in many states. Studies consistently show that exit exams do not lead to more college attendance, increased student learning, or higher employment. In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a high school exit exam.
The U.S. Department of Education is planning an astonishing increase in testing. In addition to end-of-year tests in reading and math, the department supports testing several times during the year (interim testing). The department is also encouraging testing in other subjects as well. Recently, the department announced plans to test children before they enter kindergarten (“Race to Top Initiative Sparks Assessment Fears,” Aug. 24, 2011).
In addition, all tests will be administered online, a huge expense. There is no evidence that the new tests will help children.
We all agree that assessment is part of teaching and learning, but our philosophy should be “no unnecessary testing.” Determine which tests are useful and eliminate the others. Overtesting is choking our schools both intellectually and financially.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2011 edition of Education Week as ‘Unnecessary Testing’ Will Drain Schools