from an expert in the field:
Richard P. Phelps is the founder of the Nonpartisan Education Review and the
author of The Effect of Testing on Student Achievement: 1910–2010 (
International Journal of Testing, 2012; not available at Costco).
Should offshore bank
accounts be taxable?
may be the most useful eval-
uation method available for
endeavors. it provides deci-
sion-makers with informa-
tion available from no other source.
decades of research comparing the consis-
tency of different teachers’ evaluations of identical
student work with that of standardized tests have
found much wider variance among teachers. One
paper considered too poor for a passing grade by
some might be rated excellent by others. this type
of experiment has been repeated many times, and
always with similar results: teachers’ marks are a
very unreliable means of measurement.
Most U.S. education professors deride stan-
dardized testing. But much of their research is
fraudulent—incorporating selective references,
fudged definitions and calculations, and other
an absence of standardized testing typically
fosters social promotion, a practice that results in
courses being taught at grade level for the self-
motivated, advanced kids. Conversely, any kids
who are struggling get thumb-twiddling study
halls that teach nothing.
an absence of standardized testing increases
schools’ reliance on teacher grading, which is
more idiosyncratic. independent teachers narrow
the curriculum to what they personally prefer and
teach to it. Students learn a teacher’s preferences
and how to manipulate the teacher’s perceptions.
Many teachers grade students on class participa-
tion, perceived effort, comportment; they might
also compensate for socioeconomic background.
actual subject-matter mastery is just one among
many factors considered.
Percentage reflects votes
received by July 16, 2013.
YES: 97% NO: 3%
Are U.S. manufacturing
jobs still important to the
votes received by
June 30, 2013.
from an expert in the field:
Karen Zittleman is a teacher and educational author focusing on teacher
effectiveness and educational equity. She most recently co-authored
Teachers, Schools, and Society (McGraw-Hill, 2013; not available at Costco).
teStS theMSelveS are
not bad. a test can tell us
not only how well students
are learning, but, just as
important, what students
have not learned. But not all
tests deserve cheers. When tests diminish learning
to a single score, it is called high-stakes testing and
can seriously hamper education. in recent years,
the United States has built a damaging high-stakes
testing culture, using standardized tests.
Standardized tests in math and reading have
been mandated by the federal government and
implemented in different ways in different states.
they are used to determine which students get promoted, graduate or are destined to drop out; which
teachers keep their jobs or get raises or are fired;
which schools stay open and which are closed.
as testing pressure builds, schools, teachers
and students devote one-third or more of the
school year to test preparation. Classes in history,
science, language, arts and other subjects not
tested are de-emphasized or ignored. this narrowing of the curriculum to fit the test creates scripted
lessons, scripted teachers and scripted students. if
test scores increase in a school, alfie Kohn—a
leading figure in progressive education—advises
parents to ask, “What did you have to sacrifice
about my child’s education to raise those scores?”
What’s the answer? Perhaps Finland can offer
some ideas. Finland trusts well-trained teachers to
create a curriculum as well as tests that recognize
the uniqueness of each student. Students take only
one standardized test when they complete high
school so that Finnish schools can be compared
internationally. Without a culture of standardized
testing, Finland’s students achieve at or near the
top of all nations, a powerful lesson for us.
We need to challenge today’s clamor for
increased testing. raising standardized test scores
is completely different from helping students to
learn. every hour spent on such test preparation is
an hour not spent helping students to think criti-
cally and creatively, to tackle controversial issues
and to love learning. C
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the individuals or organizations
represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and
The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.