High Stakes Testing
- Subject: High Stakes Testing
- From: Arthur Hu <ArthurH@TANGIS.COM>
- Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 10:30:53 -0700
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(to cc, Linda Chavez is among the leading conservative Hispanic thinkers in
Republican party, and she knows me from my affirmative action crusades)
Hi Linda, Arthur Hu here.
Got your editorial from the Fairtest mail list. As I might have mentioned
I'm the Republican running for Superintendent of Public Instruction in
State on the issue of killing high stakes testing. If all these tests were
making sure every knows the basics, they might be fine with me, but they are
deliberately set at levels at which most can't do and don't know in the name
setting "standards for the next century". To test kids today on what we
them to know 100 years from now is just plain crazy, and that's what MCAS
our WASL do when the NAEP research on what kids can actually do show that
nobobody in any nation can do the kind of stuff laid out in these "higher
The WASL even provides "samples" that show that they've put 10th grade
problems into their 4th grade test "just to challenge them", and
the 4th is harder than the 7th which is harder than the 10th, and to pass
10, you'll have to be in the top 30% - which is the top half of the college
Standards Based Education is quotas just like Affirmative Action said all we
had to do was set "goals". It was a bad idea for Republicans to embrace race
preferences, and it's a bad idea now for them to demand performance quotas
based on what very few students can actually do.
Seems the Thernstroms, you, Bennett, Finn and a bunch of other Republicans
are still clinging to the Son of Outcome Based Education and School To Work.
The Republicans are supposed to be the party of Less Government not Everyone
Must be Proficient Or Else.
Thanks, and I'm still hoping to get your endorsement if you can give it to
this early, I'm a heck of a lot better than Terry Bergeson who is the Wicked
Witch of the WASL. Most of the opponents of testing in Washington are
Republicans, even if the main party thinks it's their education reform plan.
my campaign site is up at www.hu4spi.com, please check it out.
High Stakes testing is a monster that the Republicans can either get credit
driving it out of town, or get credit for being the bad ideas that promoted
this ridiculous idea.
JUNE 1, 2000
Feel Good Failures
By LINDA CHAVEZ
What would happen if schools administered tests, but students refused to
them? Several hundred students in Massachusetts decided to find out for
themselves in April when they boycotted state-mandated exams for high school
sophomores, exams students must eventually pass in order to graduate.
And these students are not the first in the nation to protest high-stakes
tests. Students, parents, and even some teachers in Florida, Illinois,
Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin have recently rallied against tests
now required in many states to graduate or move from one education level to
The protesters claim the tests don't really measure what students know, and
they say test preparation takes classroom time away from learning other,
important, material. As one Massachusetts student who refused to take his
sophomore exams told a New York Times reporter: "Different people learn in
different ways. Why should all students be assessed the same way?" This
16-year-old obviously thinks he knows more than the people devising
policy for the state, but is he right? Hardly.
Students usually know a great deal less than they think they do. In
international assessments of mathematics and science, for example, American
students routinely rank themselves as very knowledgeable, but score near the
bottom of national rankings, nonetheless. And this problem may not entirely
be the students' fault. Educators have been so concerned about building
student self-esteem that they've forgotten the importance of teaching kids
the very things that would give them some basis for satisfaction.
One education psychologist recently told me about his experience testing
reading comprehension among a group of middle-class kids in Denver. In
discussions, the students seemed very bright, and most came from affluent
homes. What's more, they attended schools generally regarded as among the
best in the area, yet their scores on standardized tests were below grade
level. Puzzled, he began to explore why these seemingly smart kids were
so poorly by giving them an extensive battery of exams.
After one session, a 12-year-old girl approached him. "I found that test
really demeaning," she said. "The questions were insulting." Intrigued, the
psychologist looked up the girl's exam paper. When asked to describe the
point in a story, to tell what happened in chronological order, and to
describe a main character's motivation, the student appeared clueless.
Instead of answering those questions, she had given her own version of how
make the story "better." The girl may have shown creativity, but she did a
lousy job demonstrating she could comprehend anything she read, including
She's not alone. Millions of American students not only don't know how to
find a topic sentence in a paragraph, for example, but don't think such
skills are important in the first place. They also can't add, subtract,
multiply or divide without using a calculator, and can't imagine why anyone
would ever need to do so. Unfortunately, some of their teachers agree, so
they haven't bothered to impart these skills to their students, either.
Students and teachers might have remained in blissful ignorance were it not
for the tremendous push by education-reformers to enact tougher standards,
and then, insist that schools measure whether students were meeting them or
not. Twenty-six states now require students to pass some standardized test
before conferring high school degrees, and several of these states are in
process of raising the bar for graduation. But what will happen if more
protests like the one in Massachusetts occur?
So far, Massachusetts education authorities have been noticeably reticent to
punish the students who refused to take their exams. In Wisconsin last year,
parents who objected to statewide graduation tests succeeded in forcing the
state to repeal the requirement. Some of the Massachusetts protesters
compared their actions to the widespread civil disobedience that swept
college campuses during the Vietnam War. The parallels are frightening. The
late '60s ushered in a steep decline in education achievement. Much of that
decline can be attributed to an ethos among the best and brightest of
America's young people to "question authority," "deconstruct literature and
history," and abandon moral and intellectual standards altogether.
We've only just begun to recover from this destructive influence. If
educators aren't careful, protests like the Massachusetts test boycott could
derail the recent progress. It's time adults acted responsibly, and let
students know they have no choice in whether or not to take exams.
United Federation of Teachers
260 Park Avenue South
New York, New York 10010-7272 (212-598-6869)
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
It never has, and it never will.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who
want crops without plowing the ground. They want rain without thunder and
lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters.
-- Frederick Douglass --
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