The fight to roll back high stakes testing requirements in the nation’s school is gaining adherents as major civil rights, religious and parent groups have formally announced that they are signing on to the effort. A resolution announcing this intention boasts signatories as diverse as NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Parents Across America, National Education Association, and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, among others. The drafting of the resolution was coordinated by FairTest.org‘s Dr. Monty Neill, who, as the executive director of the organization, has long railed against proliferation of high stakes testing as an evaluation tool calling it a faulty standard that unfairly penalizes teachers, promotes widespread cheating and sets up perverse incentives.
”The over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy.”
For several years, FairTest.org has tracked cheating scandals around the country and used this as evidence in its fight to do away with high stakes testing. Earlier this year, in response to the investigative report by Atlantic Journal-Constitution that uncovered instances of standardized test cheating in almost every state in the union, FairTest’s Public Education Director Robert Schaeffer explained, in an editorial, that the problem will continue as long as test results are used as a primary tool to allocate funding, draw up school budgets and reward or penalize teachers. The editorial further stressed that while more and more school districts were directing an ever greater proportion of their resources, legitimate and otherwise, towards raising test scores, these efforts were having no impact on the area which was the primary focus of the new approach: student achievement.
The over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate.
In response to the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s call for advice on improving the integrity of the assessment process, FairTest explained that elimination of the standardized test regime was the necessary first step to restoring trust in any widely-adopted evaluation system going forward.
“Since the enactment of NCLB, standardized testing has become more about measuring the teachers, principals and schools than accurately assessing the children’s academic progress.”
“If the U.S. Department of Education is serious about its commitment to assessment integrity, it must act to reduce test cheating by stopping promotion of test score misuse.”
“Widespread cheating is an inevitable consequence of overuses of high-stakes testing.”
To further make his point, Schaeffer frequently refers to the predictions made by Campbell’s Law, which states that any excessive reliance on a single social indicator in decision making will create perverse incentives to dishonestly manipulate it to such degree that it will soon lose any value as an indicator entirely.