Jonathan Kozol, author of The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, stated that “There is something deeply hypocritical in a society that holds an inner-city child only eight years old “accountable” for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their own kids six or seven years before.” In our current education system in the United States, we have placed an increased value on standardized testing. Kozol creates an interesting point. While standardized testing serves as the primary method of assessment in US public schools, there are many negative effects of this high stakes method including compromising morals of educators, district leaders and students and increasing pressure amongst student populations, educators and district leaders. Because of these effects, standardized testing is not the best option available for U.S. public schools.
Standardized testing has a direct negative effect on an educational system including administrators, teachers and students. Standardized testing has proven to increase pressure amongst district leaders and teachers. Smolin and Clayton’s (2009) study reports that “AYP is based on assessment scores and is used as a determining factor when deciding if parents can transfer their children to higher-performing schools; affecting federal funding. As a result, educational leaders have begun to question how far schools should be allowed to go in addressing high stakes accountability.” (p. 36) Due to the pressure created among these populations, morals are sometimes jeopardized in an effort to make sure test scores are where they need to be.
Smolin and Clayton’s (2009) says that “as Ms. Jeffrey informed the school principal of the testing violation, she saw the principal’s body language and demeanor begin to change. This new information caught Ms. Darden completely by surprise. Ms. Darden understood that Ms. Jeffrey had also violated testing policy in not reporting this infraction immediately. Ms. Darden prepared to contact the Superintendent and knew the road before her would be challenging.” (p. 34) Smolin and Clayton’s (2009) study finds that “The challenges faced by educational leaders and teachers become even more highlighted when we look at the population of students with disabilities.” (p. 35)
In addition to the pressure and morality issues, standardized testing also fails to acknowledge diversity amongst student population. The student population in America is extremely diverse, and the make-up of these high stakes tests often do not take into account this diversity. Stake (1991) states that “Classroom teaching varies from room to room for a good reason: diversity is the norm. Schools are different, teachers are different, children are different” (p. 244). It is ridiculous to say that we have created a test which addresses all the diversity that we experience in our American culture. There is no “one size fits all” method to testing, and no such test exists.
In the same article, Stake (1991) says that “Our tests do not tell us what students know; they tell use which students know the most about the particular questions asked and which students will do the best on future scholastic assignments. Our tests provide valid generalizations about how students stack up against one another. Information about the quality of education is not what our tests provide” (p. 245). Because of the failure to acknowledge the diversity among the U.S. student population, test data is not accurate. As we continue on this journey to improve our education system for our students who are our future, we need to keep in mind the role diversity plays in the classroom. Until we can create assessment methods which acknowledges diversity in our education system, we are not effectively gathering useful data.
While data from standardized testing is useful, recent studies show that current standardized testing methods are not the most effective method of achieving this data. As times have changed, so has the direction in which we choose to assess and analyze student performance. Wiliam discusses in his 2010 article “Standardized testing and school accountability that there are more modern ways focused on alternate assessments that do not involve paper, pencil and bubbling in the “right” answer.
Wiliam discusses and how these have been proven effective by other districts. In addition to discussing alternative assessment methods, Wiliam (2010) states that “There is evidence that high stakes accountability testing makes it harder to keep teachers, that teachers of disadvantaged students are likely to experience greater pressure to improve their test scores and to focus on test content than teachers of more advantaged students, as well as a host of other unintended outcomes” (p. 118). Wiliam’s findings only further the notion that standardized testing has a negative effect not only on teachers but students as well. Several studies support the idea that while we are recently on an educational reform kick here in America, the way we are approaching standardized testing is not changing. Supovitz states in his 2009 article that “recent trends signify that testing has become a widely utilized instrument for educational reform in America.
Research on these trends indicates that high stakes testing does motivate teachers and administrators to change their practices, yet the changes they motivate tend to be more superficial adjustments in content coverage and test preparation activities rather than promoting deeper improvements in instructional practice” (p. 211). So while standardized testing shows us that on the surface, it looks as though high stakes testing is a positive thing, it goes no further in the classroom. Teachers change their teaching habits and methods to merely “teach to the test,” but this is not a real change. Real changes go deeper than trying to achieve a high test score. While it looks good on paper, it is not doing our students in the United States any justice. Supovitz further supports this statement through data found at U.S. schools.
Supovitz (2009) states that “research shows that the data that come from high stakes testing are useful for school and system level performance, but are problematic for individual level accountability or instructional guidance” and that high stakes testing is “not useful classroom level information” (p. 221). Clearly, there are some benefits to high stakes testing, but not enough benefits to outweigh the negative. High stakes testing only measures certain areas and does not even begin to touch on what is going on in the classroom and on an individual level. As we continue to place value on high stakes standardized testing, Supovitz (2009) makes it clear that “in the absence of clear direction, high stakes tests will produce shallower, not deeper, instructional experiences for students” (p. 223). We owe it to our students to make sure their education is meaningful and productive and that we are not just having them take these high stakes standardized tests when they are not well-rounded enough to provide us with all the data we need.
Research and data continuously show that we are not fully taking advantage of the resources we have here in the United States. There are so many other ways to test student comprehension that do not involve compromising morals, creating stressful environments or merely having students fill in a bubble sheet with the correct answers. Also, we do not have ways to assess our students without disregarding diversity in the classroom. As our education system continues to place value on high stakes standardized testing, we need to continuously think about Kozol’s quote presented in the first paragraph. How can we hold children of all ages accountable for high stakes standardized testing when we fail to hold government officials accountable for these changes?
Response: Admittedly, I did not receive much feedback because my paper was not where it needed to be when I submitted it. However, I was able to reflect on my own areas of weakness. As I continued working on my paper and reading over what I had already written, I noticed places where I needed more evidence so I inserted more evidence. Some useful feedback I did receive was to make sure that I am constantly connecting everything to my thesis and making sure that my argument is solid and persuasive.
Overall, I think I still have more work to do. However, I think that after this week, I definitely have a solid foundation to build upon as opposed to last week when I was ill-prepared to receive feedback. Feedback is very important in the writing process because it helps me reflect upon and improve my writing. It is important to read and evaluate all feedback even if I do not use it all. One thing I will take away from my feedback is to make sure I have evidence to support my analysis and to go back through my paper to make sure this evidence is solid and is relevant to what I am trying to say.