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Article

The ubiquitous use of high stakes tests in K-12 schools in the United States has a deleterious effect on students of color (e.g., Black and Latino). Punitive policies related to test outcomes, such as retention and graduation, have been particularly damaging. In fact, the historical use of tests has been linked to exclusionary and racist motives resulting in discriminatory practices in college admissions while leading to genetic and cultural deficit theories to explain low achievement for students of color. The legacy of these early uses of tests has maintained its adverse presence in today’s educational landscape. National data on grade retention, high school dropout rates, and achievement indicate that students of color are disproportionately penalized by school-based policies resulting in an unequal educational experience. Unfortunately, these trends have been persistent reflecting achievement gaps between White and Asian students and Latino and Black students, and where, in most cases, no meaningful progress in eliminating these gaps has been made. English learners are particularly harmed by these policies and tests since language and opportunity to learn (OTL) concerns persist. Trends of low achievement are attributed to poorly resourced schools, cultural deficit theories employed by school personnel, and the invalid use of tests. Schools could serve students better by employing a curriculum and instruction that is culturally and linguistically relevant, that integrates communities and schools to critically analyze their educational and social-political status and agency thus empowering both for lasting change. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered to be instructional leaders who critically evaluate their curriculum and instruction so as to educate and liberate students of color.

Article

High-stakes standardized tests standardize which knowledge is assessed, and because consequences are tied to their results, they have the impact of standardizing classroom content, teaching, and learning. The result is that students whose cultural identities do not fit the standardized norms created by test-based must either adapt or are left out of the curriculum and the classroom. This happens in a few key ways. First, as schools face increased pressure to raise test scores, curriculum content that embraces the diversity of student history, culture, and experience gets pushed out. In turn, this standardization of content limits the diversity of teacher and student identities expressed in classroom pedagogical experiences. Finally, given the disparate racial achievement on high-stakes tests, students of color face more intense pressure to perform, while at the same time their educational experiences become increasingly restricted and less rich than those of affluent, whiter students. Additionally, even though educational research has consistently shown that high-stakes testing correlates most strongly with the socioeconomic backgrounds of students and their communities, policymakers and many educators presume that these tests are offer objective measurements of individual merit. This mistaken belief ulitmately serves to hide and justify existing inequalities in the United States under the notion of individual achievement. The overall result being that high-stakes, standardized tests reproduce educational inequalities associated with race and class in the United States.

Article

Patrick Shannon

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are part of a third wave of school reform in the United States. With accompanying tests, these standards combine calls for increased academic rigor, beginning in the 1980s, with more recent efforts to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable for learning outcomes in publicly funded schools. Origins of CCSS can be traced to the 1996 National Education Summit where the National Governors Association (NGA), philanthropic foundations, and business leaders founded Achieve to broker rigorous high school graduation requirements. In 2009, Achieve became the project manager for the construction of CCSS. In 2010, implementation began with incentives from the Obama administration and funding from the Gates Foundation. Advocates choose among a variety of rationales: faltering American economic competitiveness, wide variability among state standards and educational outcomes, highly mobile student populations, and/or a growing income achievement gap. Critics cite federal intrusion in states’ rights, a lack of an evidentiary base, an autocratic process of CCSS production, and/or a mis-framing of problems facing public schools. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, federal advocacy of CCSS ended officially.

Article

The evolution of curriculum development in schools reflects the evolution of knowledge and civilization itself. What knowledge is of most worth? How shall it be codified, structured, and transformed into curriculum for the acculturation and growth of successive generations so that the future is better than the past? How can the school be designed and equipped as a productive and democratic learning environment? These are some of the questions that intersect with the fundamental factors of the education process, namely the learner, the curriculum, and the society. When these fundamental factors are set in opposition or isolation, the possibility for educational progress is impeded or set back. Embracing the idea of progress and the science of education, the experimentalist movement over the first half of the 20th century sought to dissolve the dualisms carried from ancient Greece (e.g., mind/body, intellect/emotion, abstract/concrete knowledge) in endeavoring to create new designs and structures for curriculum synthesis to meet the democratic prospect and the universal educational needs of the rising generation. In sum, the experimentalists reconstructed curriculum development into a process of problem solving for educational progress, holding to the paradigmatic principle that the structure and function of the school curriculum must be in congruence with the nature and needs of the learner for effective living in the democratic society. The paradigm holds the fundamental factors in the education process as necessarily interdependent and in harmony. The curriculum paradigm explains why so many reforms imposed on the schools predictively are destined for failure simply because they set the fundamental factors in conflict with each other. The march of democracy in global affairs will require a resurgence of the progressive vision for the curriculum of the democratic classroom and school in which students are engaged openly with each other and with the teacher in investigative cooperation, collaboration, and consultation.