Standards Opinion

Stephen Krashen: Testing and Teaching to the Test: It’s going to get Worse

By Anthony Cody — April 06, 2012 3 min read
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Guest post by Stephen Krashen

Phillip K. Howard tells us that “To fix America’s bureaucracy, we need to destroy it.” The part most in need of destruction is not yet fully grown: The new national standards and their spawn, the new national tests. Howard points out that NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and its emphasis on standardized test scores has made it very hard for teachers to be creative and deal with children as individuals. Teaching has been reduced to “teaching to the test.”

It’s going to get a lot worse. The US Department of Education is developing a massive new testing program, with far more testing than ever before, and they have made no secret about it.

More grade levels to be tested: The new plan will require, as was the case with NCLB, tests in reading and math in grades three through eight and once in high school, but there is serious discussion of extending the tests to higher and lower grades.

The US Department of Education also recently announced plans for:

This is at least a 20-fold increase in testing.
There is zero evidence that it will do any good, and good evidence that it will not work. It will mean even less room for teacher creativity and flexibility. It means even tighter control than the testing under NCLB: All the new tests, including the interim tests, will be tightly linked to precise and detailed national standards. There will be no escape.

Howard notes that “Skilled teachers have a power to engage their students -- with spontaneity, authority, and wit.” There will be no chance for any spontaneity or wit, and only the authority of the standards and tests will exist. The US Department of Education intends to finish the job of turning schools into test prep factories.

Some sources:

More grade levels to be tested: PARCC document.

Race to the top for tots: (For a reaction, see my post here.)

Interim tests:
Duncan, A. September 9, 2010. Beyond the Bubble Tests: The Next Generation of Assessments -- Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks to State Leaders at Achieve’s American Diploma Project Leadership Team Meeting, and The Blueprint, (op. cit.) p. 11. “U.S. Asks Educators to Reinvent Student Tests, and How They Are Given.”

Testing in the fall (value-added measures: (August 25, 2010). The Blueprint (op.cit.), p. 9.

Testing in more subjects: The Blueprint: A Blueprint for Reform: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. United States Department of Education March 2010; Education and the Language Gap: Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks at the Foreign Language Summit,”

Zero evidence it will work: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). Additional evidence in Krashen, S. NUT: No Unnecessary Testing.

Dr. Stephen Krashen is a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California. He has written numerous books on his research into literacy and language acquisition. In recent years he has emerged as a persistent voice pointing towards the basic steps we should take to build literacy and strong academic skills for our students.

The opinions expressed in Living in Dialogue are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.