Testing Hurts Teaching and Learning

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner - December 2007

A continuing flow of research articles demonstrate how high-stakes testing is undermining curriculum, instruction and student learning, particularly for low-income and minority-group students (see Examiner, Winter-Spring 2003). A few of the many articles include:

Tonya Moon, Carolyn Callahan and Carol Tomlinson show that a large, nationally representative sample of teachers believe high-stakes testing is negatively affecting classroom practice, especially in impoverished schools. Teachers reported spending large amounts of time on test preparation which distorts the curriculum, unless one believes teaching to the test is a good curriculum. In this process, "students from poverty are less likely to be exposed to challenging curricula and instructional methods... [so that] accountability through testing is a vehicle to restrict educational opportunities from those who need opportunities most." "Effects of State Testing Programs on Elementary Schools with High Concentrations of Student Poverty - Good News or Bad News," Current Issues in Education, http://cie.asu.edu/volume6/number8/index.html. This report complements findings of a recent Boston College (Examiner, Winter-Spring 2003).

Elizabeth Hinde reported that elementary school teachers strongly oppose the imposition of high-stakes testing, see the tests as a threat rather than a tool, and believe they have harmful impacts on teaching and learning. The study used focus groups and participant observation to detail teachers' views in a large, southwestern U.S. school district. "The Tyranny of the Test," Current Issues in Education, http://cie.asu.edu/volume6/number10/index.html.

Linda Mabry, Jayne Poole, Linda Redmond, and Angelia Schultz, in "Local Impact of State Testing in Southwest Washington," reported on a study of 31 teachers. They found teachers prefer multiple measures over one-shot tests; find the tests inappropriate for many if not most students, especially the "diverse and disadvantaged;" and object to the harmful consequences on curriculum, instruction and classroom assessment that many feel compelled to carry through. As a result, the authors conclude, it is "unlikely that centralized, top-down, state control can lead to better education." In Education Policy Analysis Archives at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v11n22.