A hearty thanks to Ms. Guisbond of FairTest for your astute analysis of the Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s plan and the fundamental shortcomings of connecting high stakes testing to teacher pay. To it I would add that these schemes tend to most negatively affect the very students we purport to want to help. A 2009 study by the Government Accountability Office on the effects of No Child Left Behind’s high stakes testing mandates showed that schools with high poverty and high concentrations of students of color are most likely to adopt strategies such as narrowing curriculum and teaching to the test. While the whole system is warped by standardized testing policies, these students receive the brunt of them.
We appreciate the Obama Administration’s promise to revamp No Child Left Behind, however, throwing away elements such as the Adequate Yearly Progress provision does not remove the single most corruptive issue of over reliance on standardized testing, in fact, connecting it to teacher pay may ultimately exacerbate the problem. With drop-out rates vastly outpacing that of their white counterparts, poor Latino and African American students are floundering in the public education system. This trend threatens to continue as long as we refuse to look for more thoughtful reform strategies, recognize these students’ experiences, and meaningfully connect with their communities.