This is a mildly edited extract from a Leadertalk post from today.  It is worth reading the rest of the post too!!

Two weeks from today we will administer the 2009 version of the California Standards Test– eight testing days of cheerleading and managing modified schedules and erasing stray pencil marks. When it’s over, we’ll box up the answer sheets and dutifully send them to Sacramento where we will await the verdict with blind faith in the accuracy of an invisible scoring system.

Blind faith because for all that is at stake with this thing, there is an extraordinary lack of control over the outcomes. And make no mistake, we have a healthy regard for the importance of the results and for the unintended consequences engendered by another testing season. How high can the high stakes be?

• These test results will follow every one of our students for the rest of their school careers.
• Future teachers will rely on these results when considering students for afterschool programs or AP classes; for participation in athletics and performing arts; for placement in the bluebirds reading group or tracking them into a school life of eternal and uninspired remediation.
• Specialists will determine that some students are gifted, by virtue of the advanced score in math or reading. Others will diagnose sometimes-arbitrary learning disabilities because a student scored significantly lower than they otherwise would have been expected.
• Schools will (illegally) consult the test results of new students registering at the counter to determine “if there is any room” or whether they should try the school down the street.
• Others will consult the scores as the final straw before banishing ‘delinquent’ and chronically low-performers to continuation school or independent study or homeschooling or some other equivalent of learning in Siberia. (Watch how frequent this occurs in…oh, let’s just say… the weeks immediately before testing! When I was the director of the juvenile court schools for San Diego County, we could bank on a swelling enrollment of students kicked out of their neighborhood schools just weeks before the CST!) ….

So when we administer the California Standards test beginning on May 4, we will do so fully aware of the high stakes with which we are playing: children’s school careers and the scope of life opportunities afforded them, the careers of educators and politicians, and the distribution of talent and resources within our communities.

There is, in the end, an incongruence here. We have a universal desire to improve our schools and our students’ learning, but a system of assessment that produces a host of unintended consequences– not the least of which– is the perpetuation of the very achievement gaps we seek to explain and mitigate through high stakes testing.

This is what High Stakes testing does to schools.  If you look at the school website you see that despite the rhetoric they are proud of the improvement they have made in their API score and use it to market themselves.

Is this what we want for NZ?  I don’t!

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>