I found this great piece on ‘high stake testing’ in the New York Times through Jelmer Evers. In it, William J. Reese, a professor of educational policy studies and history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, describes the first time the idea developed to look at raising test scores (and blaming teachers when things go wrong).
An important quote summing it up:
“Raising test scores is still the mantra of every school reformer, whatever their motivations. Yet the same issues that plagued 19th-century Boston remain. Poor children lag and affluent parents patronize the most exclusive schools to separate their children from anyone labeled “below average.” The survival instinct encourages many teachers to teach to the test, relying on the rote methods that the original exams sought to expose.
The members of Howe’s committee were mesmerized by the charms of numbers, tables and ranked lists, but they also warned that schools performed many important tasks, not easily measured statistically, like teaching norms of civility and good citizenship. And what the public wants from its schools has only grown.”
Just a personal thought, what will we do when we raised the scores, paid a high price in doing so, but the economy doesn’t follow as expected. Maybe we were looking not really in the wrong place, but just were missing a lot?
Btw, I’m living in a country without standard testing and a quite absolute taboo on ranking schools and even lately on ranking pupils.