Bursting the Bubbles: Is There a Link Between Standardized Tests and Improved Learning?

FairTest Executive Director Dr. Monty Neill, and history teacher, commentator, and organizer Jesse Hagopian joined us earlier this month for our webinar, “Bursting the Bubbles: Is There a Link Between Standardized Tests and Improved Learning?”

Miss the webinar? Check it out here:

The current defense for heavily testing our public school children is rooted in the argument for making students career and college ready. Dr. Neill explained that these multiple choice tests assess surface recall and the application of rote kinds of knowledge – strategies that won’t get you a higher wage or make you ready for college. When we hold schools, teachers, and students accountable to standardized scores we push educators to teach to the test.

Hagopian further suggested how standardized testing can detract from career and college readiness by taking away genuine learning time. Time spent testing could be better spent working with individual students and small groups to focus on specific problems and get a better sense of where they need help the most.

Hagopian emphasized that what these standardized tests do best is measure students’ socioeconomic status. He explained, “These standardized tests are designed to reveal a student’s proximity to the dominant culture and to wealth, not their aptitude or their intelligence.”

Dr. Neill pointed out that the disparities the test results show us prove something that we already know: “the critical issue is funding”, he says. “The students that need the most, don’t get the most, often they get the least. And those who get the most continue to get the most.” Dr. Neill deems the Every Student Succeeds Act to be a less destructive law than its predecessor (No Child Left Behind). NCLB took a punitive approach, while under ESSA, states are given more flexibility to both assess and provide targeted support to improve schools.

Both speakers agreed that over-reliance on standardized tests reinforce inequities. It is up to us to advocate for authentic assessments that will promote equity.

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