So Much Testing Yet So Very Little Progress: What Educational Leaders Should Do About This

Students across the entire country are in the process of meeting their final standardized testing requirements for the school year. The intent of this blog post is to cause you to examine the extent to which you believe that requiring students to take more tests, has actually caused for statistically significant improvements in student achievement. My take on this is that it has not resulted in significant improvements in student performance.

At best what has happened is that students and their teachers experience an extreme level of stress associated with attempting to ensure that students show gains on tests that far too often covers content that not all students have been exposed to.

Unfortunately, with the national focus on the results of standardized tests some of our country’s best teachers have resorted to teaching to the test as their standard method of instructional focus. Doing so results in students missing out on gaining exposure to high quality, culturally relevant curricular experiences. So why are we doing this?

To further drive home the point of me asking this question, I’d like to share a statement made by Dr. Linda Darling Hammond during a speech that she gave at a national superintendents’ conference (sponsored by the American Association of School Superintendents AASA, February 2019). Dr. Hammond stated that, “if all of this testing had been improving us, we would be one of the highest achieving nations in the world.”

Although our country has become obsessed with talking about students’ results on standardized tests, research shares with us that although we have some of the most brilliant educators working in our schools, overall our county is not listed as one of the top performing in the world. The Center on International Educational Benchmarking provides us with information about the practices of the top performing countries in the world.  My recommendation is that we keep in mind the needs of the students that we serve, while studying the trends and patterns in the practices that are being implementing in high performing countries.

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. So, let’s do something different. 

My recommendation is that state level officials across our country create an agenda and push it forward, as it relates to reducing the amount of required standardized tests that students have to take annually.  More specifically, serious consideration should be given to developing the types of policies that would suggest that students no longer be issued state level standardized tests on an annual basis but rather on a testing cycle that makes more sense (every other year, or in specific grade levels for example). 

The recommendation that I have provided is an example of what culturally responsive leaders do. Upon following this recommendation, we will move closer to reaching the goal of creating more equitable learning opportunities for some of America’s most vulnerable students. In closing, I would also like to suggest that equity-minded leaders read the book entitled The Flat World of Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future written by Dr. Linda Darling Hammond. If we are truly committed to meeting the needs of all students we will address, at a systems level, current educational practices that serve as counter-productive to helping us to reach our goals. Eliminating the current practice of over testing being one of them. Let’s keep the conversation going. Please share your thoughts related to this topic in the comments section of this blog post.