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Show your support for a two-year break from using state assessment for high-stakes purposes, and share your thoughts on the ASCD Forum.
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A two-year moratorium on using state assessments for high-stakes purposes is needed. States can and should still administer standardized assessments and communicate the results and what they mean to districts, schools, and families, but without the threat of punitive sanctions that have distorted their importance. ASCD is strongly advocating for a new approach in which testing is just one tool among many in determining whether our students are prepared for a successful future after high school graduation.
Standardized test results have been the defining measure of student achievement and school quality under the No Child Left Behind Act. This singular focus has resulted in several unintended and undesirable consequences, including over testing, a narrowing of the curriculum, and a de-emphasis of untested subjects and concepts—the arts, civics, and social and emotional skills, among many others—that are just as important to a student’s development and long-term success.
Making decisions about student readiness, teacher performance, and school quality that have far-reaching ramifications should never be based on a single state assessment. Yet, unfortunately, that is where we find ourselves today. Our education system is out of balance and needs to be reset so that testing is merely one component for evaluating progress and not the main driver of student learning and school improvement.
Moreover, the promise of the Common Core State Standards in supporting a more well-rounded and whole child approach to education is under threat from this antiquated accountability system. It is a system that neither recognizes nor values each student’s comprehensive development—socially, emotionally, civically, physically, or cognitively.
A whole child education is not antithetical to testing, but a reliance on high-stakes standardized tests to evaluate students, educators, or schools is antithetical to a whole child education. It is also counter to what constitutes good educational practice.
We need a pause to replace the current system with a new vision. Policymakers and the public must immediately engage in an open and transparent community decision-making process about the best ways to use test scores and to develop accountability systems that fully support a broader, more accurate definition of college, career, and citizenship readiness that ensures equity and access for all students.
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