Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Inevitable Corruption of Indicators and Educators through High-Stakes Testing

I can't say enough good things about this recent study by my colleague, Professor David Berliner (Arizona State University) and his co-author, Professor Sharon L. Nichols (UT—San Antonio).

  • The Inevitable Corruption of Indicators and Educators through High-Stakes Testing

  • It provides excellent workable analogies on the harmful effects of high-stakes-anything across wide-ranging arenas like medicine, industry, police enforcement, sports, academia in order to make the strong and convincing claim why high-stakes testing in education is bad policy for kids and bad for schools.

    It provides an enormous amount of evidence on the collateral effects of high-stakes testing. And it's written in accessible language that newspaper reporters and the public in general can understand.

    Read their piece—long but actually a quick read and share it with everyone you know.



    1. I agree with Angela that the language of this study is “written in accessible language that newspaper reporters and the public in general can understand”, but I still worry about the growing segment of our population that does not speak/read English and how we can go about making this information accessible to them as well. It is a concern I ponder in my own writing and sharing of information.

      As for the study, as someone who supports the integration of multiple criteria into the Texas accountability system, I very much appreciate that this study finds that the over-reliance on high-stakes testing has serious negative repercussions for our public schools. Many of our class discussion have centered on the de-professionalization of our public school teachers via high-stakes testing so to read scholarship that supports these beliefs is encouraging. Nichols & Berliner unwaveringly label the consequences of using standardized-test scores as the single-indicator in making decisions regarding the performance of school districts as “corruptible indicators”. They too identify the future employability of teachers and administrators as inaccurately attached to high-stakes testing. Their identification of 10 categories related to the effects of high-stakes testing and in depth analysis of these corrupting indicators provides a thorough arrangement of the practices taking place here in Texas public schools. Their 10 categories include, Administrator and Teacher Cheating, Student Cheating, Exclusion of Low-Performance Students from Testing, Misrepresentation of Student Dropouts, Teaching to the Test, Narrowing the Curriculum, Conflicting Accountability Ratings, Questions about the Meaning of Proficiency, Declining Teacher Morale, and Score Reporting Errors. A number of these indicators were new to me. I am intrigued, saddened, and disgusted by the extent to which schools find themselves having to operate as a result of the high-stakes regime by which they are mandated.

      Therefore, I urge Texans to support HB 1612 and HB 1613 authored by Representative Dora Olivo, which provide the opportunity to fairly assess students for grade promotion and provides alternative graduation criteria to obtain a high school diploma respectively. The use of multiple assessment criteria is crucial in helping us address the corrupted and distorted nature of high-stakes testing like the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills). I agree with Nichols & Berliner’s research that “supports building a new indicator system that is not subject to the distortions of high-stakes testing.”

    2. I complimented David Berliner & Sharon Nichols on their publication. David said to be on the lookout for another one soon. When this happens, I'll let everyone know. -Angela

    3. Linda, I share with you the concern over strategies for making this information accessible to those in our communities that do not speak/read english and all parents, really. Especially in light of last week's events with the voucher hearing and HCREO's deceiving tactics used to suggest that there was more support in our communities than there actually is. HCREO's "supporter's" visibility, with the help of the bright yellow stickers they wore, made a statement - I am sure.

      Linda, I also enjoyed the term you use - "high-stakes regime" - because that seems to really best describe what the article portrays, which for me was the corrupiton of our educational systems in which all value is lost. Youth lives and futures are easily thrown away in order to ensure employment of school administators and teachers. And this idea or notion makes me a bit uneasy given the suseptible positions that youth are in (still looked at kids and are given very little space or legitmacy to defend themselves) but you would think that administrators and teachers should know better and know that what is happening just isnt right. And some do, I mean look at how many in our class alone have left the profession to return to school b/c of this or some corollary to this.

      The study is quite powerful and does a nice job of demonstrating the scope of the issues. In the sense that this a national issue and also in the sense that this is a societal issue. On a simpler note, I really enjoyed seeing the extensive use of exclamation points! You dont see this enough in scholarship really helped in poingnantly getting the message across.