Testing

 

Public schools have seen a dramatic increase in standardized testing as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and, more generally, public acceptance of testing as an equitable way to make schools "accountable." The new tests invariably carry high stakes--that is, the results are linked to serious consequences for students, teachers, and schools. Most Americans believe that linking test results to rewards and punishments is an effective way to force schools to improve, even though research indicates that using tests in this way has the opposite effect, worsening academic performance and increasing dropout rates.

NCLB currently requires tests starting in third grade. But the latest research (see Crisis in the Kindergarten, below) indicates that standardized testing has become a major activity in the earliest grades, including kindergarten, in spite of serious doubts about its validity.

Health-care professionals and parents report that test-related stress is literally making many children sick. The Alliance for Childhood has called for a rethinking of the current emphasis on standardized testing in a statement signed by, among others, four of the country's leading child psychiatrists -- Robert Coles and Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical School; Marilyn Benoit, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; and Stanley Greenspan, author of "Playground Politics: Understanding the Emotional Life of the School-Age Child."

Harvard Professor Howard Gardner has said that "what started as a well motivated process to improve student learning has become an increasingly irrational high-stakes endeavor. Politicians may show short-term gains, but students, teachers, and the learning process are becoming casualties." Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute and a leading scholar in the assessment of young children, says, "High-stakes tests brings out the worst in everyone."

NEW: Fact sheet on kindergarten testing, with advice especially for parents.