Monday, August 13, 2012

How High-Stakes Tests & Charter Schools Are Harmful To Public Schools

I was fortunate to meet Dov Rosenberg, a fellow defender of Public Education at the Save Our Schools Convention in Washington, D.C. recently.  Mr. Rosenburg with the help of fellow public school advocates put together this great list:

 

How High-Stakes Tests & Charter Schools Are Harmful To Public Schools

 

by Dov Rosenberg 


A) High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.

B) Charter schools outperform public schools less than 20% of the time while segregating children and minimizing the power of parents & the community.

High-Stakes Tests Do Not Effectively Gauge Student Ability:
  • Constrict wide expanses of knowledge into only what can be measured by a multiple choice test.
  • Many contain nonsensical questions, have multiple correct answers, or have no right answers at all (see: Pineapplegate).
  • With hundreds of millions of American kids taking the same test, ethnic & regional differences aren't considered, making them unavoidably culturally biased.
  • Unduly reward the superficial ability to retrieve info from the short-term memory.
  • Pass/Fail status is often determined by politicians while test scores are often manipulated for political purposes.
  • National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: "Standardized tests have not increased student achievement.”
  • Measure only low-level thought processes, trivializing true learning.
  • Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; scoring errors can have life-changing consequences.
  • Curricula constructed from high-stakes tests are based on what legislators assume children will need to know in the future. Countless previous attempts at predicting the future have ended in failure.
  • Are often only marginally aligned with curricular standards.
  • Provide minimal feedback that is useful to classroom teachers.
  • Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (common in children).
  • Test results are not able to predict future success.
  • Claimed to be used as a diagnostic tool to maximize student learning, but are actually used to punish students, teachers, & schools.

High-Stakes Tests Are Harmful To Children:
  • Minimal time for socializing & physical activity b/c recess & PE are cut in favor of test prep, particularly affecting low-scoring students.
  • Testing anxiety has lead to sickness, vomiting, & even incontinence in the classroom.
  • Excessive testing stifles the love of learning.
  • Year-end tests require sitting still & staying focused for 3.5 hours, which leads to behavior problems.
  • Encourage the promise of extrinsic motivators such as rewards for high scores (bribes) & punishments for low scores (threats).
  • Pressure to pass tests has lead to stimulant abuse in teenagers.

High Stakes Tests Make Public Schools Less Effective:
  • The lowest & highest achievers are left out as instructional resources are focused on learners at or near the pass/fail threshold.
  • Fewer opportunities for kids to enjoy creative classes that make them love school.
  • Arts & other electives are cut in favor of test prep & testing, particularly affecting students from low-income families.
  • Children don't receive adequate instruction in non-tested areas like science, history, geography, government, etc.
  • Divert billions of state taxpayer funds from public schools to pay huge testing firms like Pearson & ETS (Educational Testing Services).
  • Divert precious time resources to test facilitation, preparation (such as begging proctors to volunteer), & administration.
  • As top private schools have rejected high stakes testing, more affluent families have moved their children out of public schools, where high stakes tests are unavoidable.
  • When test scores trigger automatic retentions, much older students in classrooms can cause additional behavior problems
  • Norm-referenced tests, by definition, label 50% of students as below average. Requiring all students to be at or above "grade level" is statistically impossible.
  • Give testing firms control of the curriculum
  • Test scores are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness in lieu of more effective administrator observations
  • Reduces teacher creativity & autonomy, thereby reducing the appeal of teaching as a profession
  • Minimize teachers' ability to accomodate multiple learning styles and provide adequate differentiation
  • Create unreasonable pressure on students & teachers to cheat as well as on administrators & school districts to "game the system"

Less Than 20% of Charter Schools Are Successful:
  • Even the pro-charter documentary "Waiting for Superman" notes that only 1 in 6 charter schools succeed.
  • Charter schools can artificially inflate their published testing success rate by deflecting potentially low-scoring kids back to public schools, often less than 2 months before state tests are administered.

Charter Schools Segregate Children:
  • Most charter schools are racially homogenous.
  • Without diversity requirements, charter schools can market to specific demographics, ultimately segregating communities.
  • Children from the same neighborhood often go to different schools, don't know each other, & don't play outside together. Alienation negatively impacts neighborhood communities.

Charter Schools Minimize The Decision-Making Power of Parents & The Community:
  • Private control, as opposed to elected control via school board, leaves curricula to be defined by a corporate agenda.
  • Corporate-controlled charter school home offices are often centralized out of state.
  • Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that the people closest to (& therefore most knowledgeable about) problems are the best positioned to deal with them.

Charter Schools Make Public Schools Less Effective:
  • Taxpayer dollars are deflected from public schools into charter schools where they're utilized w/o transparency or accountability.
  • Charter schools have the freedom to select high-achieving kids w/ few needs so low-achieving kids w/ high needs get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Charter schools aren't obligated to provide special services for high-needs kids so they often get deflected & ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Only families who can navigate application processes can apply to a charter. Families w/o the time or know-how to "work the system" (often very poor and/or immigrant families) are ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Private entities have already tried running school districts according to corporate models & seen disastrous results.