More than 136 Massachusetts education professors and researchers have added their voices to a growing national rebellion against high-stakes testing. In a joint statement, the experts called for a new state assessment system that will better evaluate the competencies children need to succeed. The signers also urged an end to the state’s current overreliance on high-stakes standardized exams.
The signers say Massachusetts standardized tests “provide only one indicator of student achievement, and their high-stakes uses produce ever-increasing incentives to teach to the test, narrow the curriculum, or even to cheat.” Because of these negative consequences, the signers “call on the [Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education — BESE] to stop using standardized tests in high-stakes decisions affecting students, teachers, and schools.”
The endorsers of the statement recommend that the Secretary of Education, Education Commissioner and BESE:
- Work with educators, parents and the public to craft a new assessment system that will more fully assess the many competencies our children need to succeed in the 21st century and that will avoid the current overreliance on standardized tests.
- Stop using MCAS test results as a barrier to high school graduation.
- Prohibit the use of student test scores in educator evaluations and in decisions for hiring, firing, laying off or rewarding teachers.
- Focus teacher evaluations on the appropriate use of evidence-based teaching practices and a comprehensive set of indicators of classroom and school-based student learning rather than one-shot test scores.
Professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige of Lesley University, a leading national early childhood education expert, is one of the statement’s four initiators. “The over-reliance on standardized tests, a destructive influence in American education for over a decade, has now become commonplace in classrooms for our youngest learners,” Carlsson-Paige said. “Increasingly, in early childhood programs across the country, testing and test prep are taking the place of the high-quality education experiences that early childhood professionals have long known are essential for long-term success in school and in life.”
Among the signers are former public school teachers who are now higher education faculty. Floris Wilma Ortiz, Assistant Professor at Westfield State University and the 2011 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, said, “I come from 23 years of teaching classes of English Language Learners. I know first-hand what the MCAS does to them. How can we unite our forces on behalf of a pretty quiet population, immigrants and ELLs who often are overlooked and measured with the same stick?”
Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, is Author in Residence at Northeastern University. He sees the negative impact of the testing regime on his students’ writing ability. “The past decade of high-stakes standardized testing in our schools has created college classrooms where the crucial skills of critical thinking and expression are eclipsed by concerns for ‘what’s on the test?’” MacDonald said. “The college professor—particularly of writing–who wants students to express their ideas clearly has to spend precious classroom time undoing the paralysis caused by the culture of testing. With the lessons ingrained by high-stakes standardized exams, our schools fail to nurture the potential citizen leaders a democracy requires. And, ultimately, our nation fails the test.”
“The common sense outcry against the testing regime is gaining momentum across the nation,” said Dr. Leigh Patel, Associate Professor, Lynch School of Education, Boston College. “This anti-testing statement reminds all of us who are interested in the welfare of children to join together to stop the madness that has conflated learning with test score production for the benefit of testing corporations.”
Dr. Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, also helped initiate the statement. “Across the nation, parents, students, teachers, other community members and academics are saying, ‘Enough!’ to the overuse and misuse of standardized tests,” Neill said. “This statement by a broad range of Massachusetts professors and researchers is an important addition to the growing national test reform movement.”