Letter to Editor of NY Times Magazine  in response to the article on High Stakes Tests (4-7-02)

High stakes standardized tests are an international phenomenon. They
represent a powerful intrusion into classrooms, often taking up as much as
40% of teacher time. The tests pretend that one standard fits all, when one
standard does not fit all. 

High-stakes test pretend to neutrality but are deeply partisan in content,
reflecting the needs of elites in a world becoming more inequitable, less
democratic, becoming  commodities for opportunists whose interests are
profits, not the best interests of children. The exams amount to a false,
and low, horizon for learning.

 Big Tests gauge for the most part, parental income and race, and are
therefore instruments which build racism and anti-working class
sentiment--against the interest of most teachers and their students. 

These tests deepen the segregation of children within and between school
systems. Inner-city families and poor families are promised tests as an
avenue to escape the ghetto and poverty, when the tests are designed to
fail their children, boosting dropouts, leaving more children trapped in
the ghetto and poverty, deepening inequality. 

The tests foment an atmosphere of greed, fear, and hysteria, none of which
contributes to learning.  The tests create an atmosphere that pits students
against students and teachers against teachers and school systems against
school systems in a mad scramble for financial rewards, and to avoid fiscal

The tests set up a false employer-employees relationship between teachers
and students which damages honest exchanges in the classroom, shattering a
vital relationship that is key to learning

We have seen repeatedly that the exams are unprofessionally scored, for
example in New York in 2000 when thousands of students were unnecessarily
ordered to summer school on the grounds of incorrect test results. 

 The tests have been used to unjustly fire and discipline caring educators
throughout the country. In addition, the exams have been used to excuse the
abolition of elected school boards and the takeover of school districts, as
in Detroit, where the assault on voting rights is leading to civil strife. 

The Big Tests are not educational tools, but financial weapons. In Michigan
the exam is administered not by the Education Department, but by Treasury. 

The exams represent an assault on academic freedom by forcing their way
into the classroom in an attempt to regulate knowledge, what is known and
how people come to know it. 

The tests destroy inclusion and inquiry-based education.  

Education organizations like the faculty association of the  National
Council for the Social Studies and the  American Educational Research
Association have  supported long-term authentic assessment, and opposed
high-stakes standardized examinations. That there is a rising tide of
education-worker resistance to the high-stakes exams, as well as student
and educator boycotts involving leaders from communities both rich and poor
should be no surprise. 

Dr Rich Gibson
The Rouge Forum
San Diego State University College of Education San Diego Ca 


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