High-stakes tests are valid measures of learning, writes Manhattan Institute researcher Jay Greene in Newsday.
Another argument we hear from school officials is that accountability tests don’t promote real learning; they only promote test manipulation. Teachers allegedly “teach to the test” in ways that produce higher scores without conveying knowledge and skills.
To see whether this is the case, I recently performed a nationwide study comparing the results schools got on accountability tests with the same schools’ results on widely respected tests that aren’t used for accountability purposes. These other tests are nationally recognized as genuine measurements of student learning, but they aren’t used for accountability purposes. I found that schools’ results on the two types of tests were highly correlated, indicating that accountability tests do measure real learning and are not distorted by test manipulation.
We also hear from officials at comfortable suburban schools that accountability puts an unnecessary burden on them. Our students are mastering basic skills just fine, they say, complaining that a testing regime would force them to spend less time on science, art, and other things they prefer in order to spend more time on basic skills.
This one sounds fishy from the start. If these schools’ students are really mastering basic skills so well, why would the schools have to change their curricula in order to produce passing grades?
The answer is that NCLB looks at the achievement of low-income, non-English-fluent and minority subgroups; a suburban school’s average score may be high while disadvantaged students are doing poorly.