rewards (external motivations) serves to
strip children of their innate desire to learn (internal motivation).
High stakes testing has resulted in the
Exaggerated reports of success. In Texas, many
proponents of standardized testing
argue that the high stakes movement along with other means of holding
people and schools accountable has been an integral part the state's
improvement in test scores. Others will argue that any
improvement in the Texas educational system is not the result of high
stakes testing, but rather, a product of smaller class sizes, overall
increases in educational spending, and a court ordered equalization of
resources between schools that serve the rich and schools that serve
• Rather than learning
anything of consequence, students are taught
how to beat the test. Consider this passage taken
directly from Kohn's book:
When tests are
first administered, the scores are distressingly low. (And the
headlines read: Our schools are failing! Our students are
ignorant!) After a year or two, the scores begin to rise as
students and teachers get used to the test. (And the headlines
read: Our schools are improving! Tougher standards are working!)
Then the scores level off or begin to drop, or, if a new test is
substituted for the original one, even plummet. (We've gown
complacent! Even tougher standards are needed!)
This is not due to a change in the competency
of teachers, or level of instruction. This is simply
the process of students and teachers acclimating to the tests.
teachers and principals leave the profession. Those
individuals who realize that the priorities of the educational system
are entirely skewed, and are often not able to remain in an environment
where they are forced to implement a curriculum that they are ethically
opposed to. Those teachers who truly value education often cannot
tolerate a system that is centered on test scores rather than actual
Those educators who do not leave the system often become
defensive and competitive. In the
high stakes environment, they are forced to do all that they can to
raise the test scores of their students. They are forced to
defend themselves and their teaching methods when their students score
Cheating has become widespread.
And not only is cheating occurring on the part of the
students, teachers - under similar pressure - have been caught giving
inappropriate help to students during the exams, or even going so far
as to alter the answer sheets after the exams are completed. Such
behavior is condemned by the media, the politicians, and the school
boards. But what about the system that produces this behavior?
• Rather than focusing on true
understanding or higher level reasoning,
educational curriculum becomes more and more fact oriented.
As the tests become more fact based, teachers - in order to prepare
their students for the exams, and to avoid a condemnation of their
teaching methods or punitive actions - tailor their classes to the
tests. Education becomes dry, boring, and predictable, and
concerns itself with nothing but the barest of facts.
• The high stakes movement is
centered around the notion of quantification.
But education is not necessarily a
quantifiable entity. Since when are only the things
that are measurable by standardized tests considered important?
The best and most innovative educational programs that presently exist
in our country are being eliminated, because their results cannot be
readily reduced to a series of meaningless numbers.
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