Does high-stakes testing help or hurt at-risk students and those from poor communities?

Does high-stakes testing help or hurt at-risk students and those from poor communities?

Answer:

High-stakes testing, standardization of tests and curriculum, and punishing sanctions for underperforming schools are meant to level the playing field and provide more equal educational opportunity. However, what typically happens is that the entire educational enterprise becomes oriented toward raising test scores. This happens particularly in under-resourced urban schools that have a weak tax base and depend more on federal aid. Art, music, physical education, sometimes science and social studies, and even recess, get sacrificed in order to throw more time and resources into test prep. Principals and teachers know their jobs are on the line. This narrowing of the focus to those basic skills that will be tested does these students a tremendous disservice. In the words of seminary professor Dora Chaplin, “Our Lord said, ‘Feed my sheep’; he did not say, ‘Count them.'”


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With thanks for support and encouragement from The Myrin Institute and Orion magazine.

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