America’s public schools administer more than 100 million standardized exams each year, including IQ, achievement, screening, and readiness tests.
Much of the time and money devoted to testing is misspent. Too many tests are poorly constructed, unreliable, and unevenly administered. Multiple-choice questions cannot measure thinking skills, creativity, the ability to solve real problems, or the social skills we want our children to have. Moreover, many exams are biased racially, culturally, linguistically, and by class and gender.
Unfortunately, use of these flawed tests leads to inaccurate and inappropriate decisions about children’s education. Minorities and low-income children are too often excluded from “gifted and talented” programs and placed in special education or “mentally retarded” classes, where they do not get a good education. Results of tests given to young children are particularly erroneous.
Not only are individual children harmed, but so is the entire educational system. Tests cores provide little useful information to help improve instruction and students’ learning. In pursuit of higher test scores, the curriculum has been narrowed and “dumbed down” to match the tests. Children learn less.
FairTest urges changes in the use of tests. First, mass testing of young children for readiness, placement and promotion must stop. Second, no decision about any child should ever be made primarily on the basis of test scores. Third, tests must be no more than one small part of assessing both students and educational programs. Fourth, valid, comprehensive, unbiased alternatives must be developed. FairTest urges political and educational leaders to support the use of assessment methods that will help improve learning and instruction in our nation’s schools.