All of us, as parents and citizens, want to make sure our schools
are doing a good job and our children are learning. Unfortunately,
the MCAS exams-and the "tougher standards" philosophy
that they reflect-not only fail to provide meaningful information
but actually interfere with the goal of providing students with
a high-quality education.
Tests are called "high-stakes" when they used to make major decisions about a student, such as high school graduation or grade promotion. To be high stakes, a test has to be very important in the decision process or be able to override other information (for example, a student does not graduate if s/he does not pass the test regardless of how well s/he did in school). Currently, 17 states require students to pass a test to graduate, and 7 more are planning such tests.
As we enter into a national debate on school improvement and greater public school accountability with a heavy emphasis on testing, educators are concerned that a solitary focus on testing ignores important opportunities to help all students achieve at high levels. Overreliance on testing could have the unintended consequence of hurting more than helping.
As the only national organization with testing reform as its focus, FairTest has a more than 20-year history of working to improve assessment of America's students. We have addressed such issues as the proper role of college admissions exams in university admissions, state graduation and grade promotion tests, and the role of assessment in the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB).
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