There is a new book out with a title that in eight words explains a good part of the mess that school reform based on standardized tests has been in recent years. The title is “The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better,” and the author is Daniel Koretz, the Henry Lee Shattuck professor of education at Harvard University. Koretz is an expert on educational assessment and testing policy, and he has focused his work on the consequences of high-stakes testing. Before going into academia, he taught emotionally disturbed students in public elementary and junior high schools.
The school “accountability movement” has relied in large part on standardized test scores to evaluate students, schools, teachers, principals and districts. It started under the No Child Left Behind Act, which went into effect in 2002 under President George W. Bush, grew during the Obama administration and is continuing with somewhat less fervor today.
The movement led to classrooms dominated by test prep and a severe narrowing of the curriculum to a primary focus on subjects being testing: reading and math. More and more tests were piled on during the school year, eventually sparking a grass-roots resistance nationwide in which parents opted their children out of tests. Even some supporters of using high-stakes tests as a key assessment tool came to realize that the movement had gone too far.
There are big questions that remain about the test-based accountability movement, including who allowed it to happen.