Education historian, Diane Ravitch, became known for her push to establish national standards for K-12 education. From 1997-2004, she served as a member of the National Assessment Governing Board and marshaled the federal testing program.
Now, in her book, The Life and Death of the Great American School System, she maintains that the use of these tests do not serve the needs of children. “We are so test-obsessed that schools are being closed based on test scores, even when those test scores reflect that the schools have a heavy enrollment of very poor kids or heavy enrollment of children with disabilities and children with all kinds of other needs,” says Ravitch. “We don’t look at the needs. We don’t evaluate the problems that need to be solved in that school. We just say ‘These are low scores. We have to close the school.’”
Ravitch goes on to say, “I used to think that our society and schools could use tests to improve. But what’s happened with the test – and I don’t think I understood this until No Child Left Behind really went into full implementation — is that tests have now become the linchpin of education.”
“The problem,” as Ravitch writes in The Life and Death of the Great American School System, “was the misuse of testing for high-stakes purposes, the belief that tests could identify with certainty which students should be held back, which teachers and principals should be fired or rewarded, and which schools should be closed–and the idea that these changes would inevitably produce better education.”
It’s an interesting debate as we sit on the precipice of the Common Core Standards movement. Will we learn from the past, or will the new assessment measures be another version of “standardized testing”? Will this be another way to evaluate which teachers keep their jobs or which students proceed to the next grade, or will the Common Core assessments be an effective metric for college and career readiness as PARCC has proposed?
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