Standards and Testing: Not Living Up to Hype

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To the Editor: Your report Quality Counts (Jan. 5, 2006) provides a glut of data about American public schools, but as a whole-systems assessment it fails miserably.

We’ve spent billions of dollars on standards and testing, and what have we achieved? Both 4th and 8th grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are up by small but significant amounts, so these are real gains. But reading scores at both grade levels are up only 2 points. These very limited improvements alone would suggest to reasonable observers that the standards-and-testing paradigm may not be the improvement, let alone the panacea, that its advocates claim.

But what does Quality Counts tell us about the following elements of schooling that have been affected by our relentless focus on reading and math and standards and testing?

• What are the effects of the reduction and/or removal of the arts from students’ school lives?

• How will the reduction and/or removal of social studies and civics instruction affect our students, our political culture, and our economic future?

• In what ways does the reduction and/or removal of physical education and recess affect our students’ lives? How is this related to our epidemic of childhood obesity?

• What will the long-term effects be of making school more and more into a place where children’s interests and questions are irrelevant? We claim to want creative, inspired young people, but how does that claim jibe with our suppression of creativity, curiosity, and inspiration in school?

• What are the effects of test-induced psychic trauma on our children?

Our political and corporate leaders who have framed and enacted the standards-and-testing paradigm preach about their insistence on data-driven decisionmaking. But for most of what goes on in the lives of children and teenagers in our schools today, we gather absolutely no data at all.

David Marshak
College of Education
Seattle University
Seattle, Wash.

Vol. 25, Issue 27, Page 37

Published in Print: March 15, 2006, as Standards and Testing: Not Living Up to Hype

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