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Widening the gap

By Denebola
Published: March 2008

By Sarah Pincus

Redbud Elementary School in Louisiana does not have a library, playground, hot water, or any art classes. Its school district, however, spent $85,000 on software to prepare for high-stakes standardized testing. Struggling schools are essentially becoming test-prep centers.
When teachers just drill for the tests, the students don’t truly understand the concepts involved or learn how to solve problems on their own. As two teachers said, “the use of high-stakes testing is changing what goes on in classrooms to the detriment of the arts, problem solving, creativity, and the joy associated with learning and discovering.
These tests also widen the very socioeconomic achievement gaps that they are supposed to close. If tests are given to all students in a state and they are expected to receive equal scores, schools should receive equal funds.


How can students who live in homes without floors, electricity, or running water be expected to work at the same level as those who go home to families with computers, and books, and parents who are available to read to them and help them with their homework? The kids who suffer the most are the students with lower incomes, those belonging to racial minorities, those with learning disabilities, and those learning English as a second language.
Many kids who do poorly on these tests feel anxious, inadequate, and hopeless’€the test even lead many to drop out of school altogether. This implies that students who do poorly on high-stakes standardized tests do so because they don’t try hard enough, or lack motivation. But that is not always the case.
“On good days I wonder what is wrong with the system, but most of the time I wonder what is wrong with me, said a Brookline High School student who did well in school but was unable to pass the math MCAS because of a learning disability.
The damage wreaked by high-stakes standardized must be reversed. We need to eliminate these tests and let the teachers actually teach!
By over-regulating our teachers, we are stripping them of their effectiveness. We must give them independence to make their own decisions in their classrooms.
If this is done, all of the money and time that has been wasted on testing can be used to improve situations in struggling schools and their communities. Research shows that these tests are really measuring family income. But a test is not necessary to tell us that rich kids have more opportunities to do well than poor kids. What we need to do is redirect our funds, attention, and time to giving these kids the opportunities that they need.
No one has ever cured a child’s fever by taking their temperature. It’s pretty clear which schools and communities are struggling.
We need to give them help, not siphon away the money they need.
As Americans, we pride ourselves on our public education, which despite its flaws, has done a great deal to level out the playing field.
We need to preserve and strengthen public education, not gut it with these supposed “reform efforts.Redbud Elementary School in Louisiana does not have a library, playground, hot water, or any art classes. Its school district, however, spent $85,000 on software to prepare for high-stakes standardized testing. Struggling schools are essentially becoming test-prep centers.When teachers just drill for the tests, the students don’t truly understand the concepts involved or learn how to solve problems on their own. As two teachers said, “the use of high-stakes testing is changing what goes on in classrooms to the detriment of the arts, problem solving, creativity, and the joy associated with learning and discovering.These tests also widen the very socioeconomic achievement gaps that they are supposed to close. If tests are given to all students in a state and they are expected to receive equal scores, schools should receive equal funds.How can students who live in homes without floors, electricity, or running water be expected to work at the same level as those who go home to families with computers, and books, and parents who are available to read to them and help them with their homework? The kids who suffer the most are the students with lower incomes, those belonging to racial minorities, those with learning disabilities, and those learning English as a second language.Many kids who do poorly on these tests feel anxious, inadequate, and hopeless’€the test even lead many to drop out of school altogether. This implies that students who do poorly on high-stakes standardized tests do so because they don’t try hard enough, or lack motivation. But that is not always the case.“On good days I wonder what is wrong with the system, but most of the time I wonder what is wrong with me, said a Brookline High School student who did well in school but was unable to pass the math MCAS because of a learning disability.The damage wreaked by high-stakes standardized must be reversed. We need to eliminate these tests and let the teachers actually teach!By over-regulating our teachers, we are stripping them of their effectiveness. We must give them independence to make their own decisions in their classrooms.If this is done, all of the money and time that has been wasted on testing can be used to improve situations in struggling schools and their communities. Research shows that these tests are really measuring family income. But a test is not necessary to tell us that rich kids have more opportunities to do well than poor kids. What we need to do is redirect our funds, attention, and time to giving these kids the opportunities that they need.No one has ever cured a child’s fever by taking their temperature. It’s pretty clear which schools and communities are struggling.We need to give them help, not siphon away the money they need.As Americans, we pride ourselves on our public education, which despite its flaws, has done a great deal to level out the playing field.We need to preserve and strengthen public education, not gut it with these supposed “reform efforts.

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