Through my 11 years of helping in classrooms, I saw with my own eyes the learning climate and conditions within my “In Needs of Improvement” schools. The children falling through the cracks were not going to be recovered by setting higher standards. The reasons they fell were not typically things to be diagnosed by a standardized test. And “high stakes” testing was something I could see for what it was.
For me, the standardized test with the highest stakes, ever, was the National Board of Veterinary Medicine Examination. I entered that room after having four years of instruction at a highly accredited university with highly trained and experienced instructors, a relevant and comprehensive curriculum, plentiful instructional materials, and facilities that facilitated learning in a climate conducive to it. Being an adult, success was totally on me.
So when high-stakes testing came before the Idaho legislature in 1999, testifying to the Joint Legislative Education Committee on behalf of my students was a no-brainer. There was and is nothing fair about holding students, teachers, or judging schools based on standardized tests when the conditions for teaching and learning have not first been met.
High-stakes testing — for reward such as with merit pay, or, punishment-driven such as with No Child left Behind, it doesn’t matter — it puts something of value at stake. It has a place, but, K-12 isn’t it!
Today, the heart and soul of public education is at stake.