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Principal Shares Thoughts on Annual Standardized Testing

Principal Shares What They Learned About Annual Standardized Testing

Does annual standardized testing work in schools? Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York doesn't think so.

Burris, who was also named New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, shares her thoughts on standardized testing in a blog post that was featured in an article on WashingtonPost.com.

Burris starts her post with a quote from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, according to the article. Whitehouse said the following at the Senate education committee hearing to rewrite No Child Left Behind on Jan. 21.:

My experience in the education world is that there are really two worlds in it. One is the world of contract and consultants and academics and experts and plenty of officials at the federal state and local level. And the other is a world of principals and classroom teachers who are actually providing education to students. What I’m hearing from my principals’ and teachers’ world is that the footprint of that first world has become way too big in their lives to the point where it’s inhibiting their ability to do the jobs they’re entrusted to do.

Burris wrote that "his thoughts, which were given at the end of the hearing, were the perfect bookend to the remarks of Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican from Tennessee, who chairs the panel and who opened the hearing on a similar theme."

"Earlier, Alexander reminded those in attendance that the Department of Education should not be 'a national school board,'" Burris wrote. "He said that the overreach of President Obama’s Race to the Top education funding competition is inhibiting the work of states to create challenging standards. Alexander closed with an excerpt from my letter to him, which originally appeared here on the Answer Sheet. That letter talked about the steady decrease of democratic control of our schools, as well as the ineffectiveness of test-based reforms."

According to Burris, "although these two senators, Whitehouse and Alexander, sit on different sides of the aisle, they both expressed clear discomfort with the federal government’s intrusion into schools. As Whitehouse bluntly noted, 'The superstructure of education supervision –I am not sure passes the test of being worth all the expense and all the trouble.'"

Many of the senators expressed their sincere concerns that without annual standardized testing and sanctions for schools that do not raise scores high enough among all sub-groups of students, some schools would ignore vulnerable students. I understand their worry. I once believed the same. However, after more than a decade of this strategy, there is no evidence that yearly testing and sanctions have resulted in equity gains for students.

In fact, New York’s data may be indicating that annual testing and test based graduation requirements may now be having the opposite effect. During the past three years, the 'graduation rate gap' between English Language Learners and their English proficient fellow students has expanded from 33 points to 43 points, with only 31 percent of English Language Learners graduating in four years.

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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