How Bad the High Stakes Testing Is


Some day (soon), I’ll get back to looking at the relationship between justice and equality, but I’m interrupting myself again to offer something I consider very important as articulated by Diane Ravitch.  Here’s the part of her interview I want to highlight:

Here’s what I said to them this morning, for better or worse. I had a revolutionary moment and spontaneously, off my script, said that if I could recommend one thing to them, it would be that entire districts say, “We’re not giving the tests. We’re not giving the tests.”
The tests are flawed, they have all kinds of errors: They have statistical errors, random errors, measurement errors. Some of the questions are really stupid. And they are being used in ways they are not designed to be used. The first rule in the testing world is tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. They are being misused. They were not designed to measure teachers or to measure schools or to fire teachers or to close schools. So we need to stop all these punitive uses and to stop the labeling of children, which I think is the worst message of testing.


The fundamental thing to understand about testing is that all these tests are normed on a bell curve. And the bell curve by its very nature has a bottom half and a top half. You can never close the gap between the bottom half and the top half. It is impossible. The top half is populated overwhelmingly by children from affluent homes. The bottom half is populated overwhelmingly by children of poverty. So you have chosen to use the one instrument that reinforces inequity and made that the state policy. So the way to drive the stake through the heart of the vampire is for a district to say, as an entire district, “We’re not giving the test this year.” And if 100 districts say this, if 200 districts say it, that sends a pretty powerful message to the legislature. That we’re trying to find a better way to be held accountable, be accountable to our parents, be accountable to our students, and to figure out a better way to educate kids so they actually have an education instead of a test score.

Here’s the whole piece: