are a Tool, Not an End
State Senator Liz Krueger
year I created a high school civics education program to encourage
students to think critically about government and politics.
Through experiential learning and active participation, they
demonstrated a level of civic understanding that I cannot imagine
would have been measurable through a written exam. I realize
this is a microscopic example, and I do not claim any pedagogical
expertise. I am simply recognizing that there are many ways
to learn and to demonstrate mastery of complex issues. If our
goal is to prepare students to be civically minded citizens
who will actively engage in a democratic society, strengthen
communities, and meet the challenges of family life and the
careers they choose, we must provide them with every opportunity
to excel. If high stakes tests have the potential to limit
our children’s opportunities for success, they cannot be the
only road provided to move toward educational attainment.
opinion polls show that two-thirds of Americans currently support
standardized national tests and curriculum for school children.
Standards seem to be a focus at every level—assessing students
and schools for proficiency, ensuring quality teaching, providing
school options, and funding and enforcing changes at the worst
dilemma is not the understandable demand for more “accountability,” but
the dangers of moving toward a “one-size-fits-all” model of
education where our schools evolve into “one-size-fits none” teach-to-test
tests present clear goals and used as an evaluative tool can
provide students, parents and schools a way to measure progress
toward meeting these goals. But, there are dangers in viewing
standardized test results as the end product of education.
First, these tests should only be used as a method of determining
the progress that has been made and who needs special assistance
to move toward target goals. Second, we need to continue efforts
to address problems with reliability and validity of standardized
tests when they are administered.
children are different, and using high-stakes testing as the
only measure of success is sure to result in failure for those
who are not great test-takers. Because of the concurrent pressures
on teachers and administrators from standardized testing, they
may in turn give up on the children who need the most help,
viewing them as not capable of learning because of their lower
test scores. We also can’t allow our desire to standardize
accountability to result in exacerbating the current situation
where New York has dismal graduation rates; with documented
reports of struggling students effectively being counseled
out of school rather than counting toward overall dropout rates.
high standards for every child is a laudable goal. But, the
devil is in the details, and we should look to the relationship
between fair funding and the standards movement as we make
critical education policy decisions. How can we, in good conscience
and absent good public policy, demand increasingly high stakes
standards from our students while failing to provide the educational
supports necessary to ensure success?
no one should have the illusion that all children can hit the
bulls-eye in the same educational target. Some of us are better
at math than English, and vice versa. A one-size-fits-all measurement
is not the answer we need. It’s our job not to discourage our
children, but to help them find their way.#
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