Standardized Tests Must Support Instruction, Report Says
WEAC President Stan Johnson (right) is joined at a news conference by
State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster and Miles Turner, executive director
of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators. They discussed
a new national report recommending ways to improve the use of standardized
Standardized tests of America's schoolchildren often fail to achieve
their main purpose of improving teaching and learning, according to a
national report released Tuesday (October 23, 2001) in Washington, D.C.
"In the rush to implement testing systems, too few states have tests
that are designed to help teachers improve teaching methods and curriculum
or are useful in helping children learn higher level thinking skills,"
said the report. It was issued by five education organizations: The American
Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary
School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals,
the National Education Association, and the National Middle School Association.
In Wisconsin, WEAC was joined by the Department of Public Instruction
and the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators in holding
a news conference to publicly support the recommendations of the report.
"The state and federal governments are requiring more and more testing
without giving careful thought to what would make it useful," WEAC
President Stan Johnson told the Madison news conference. "Assuming
that testing is the answer to every educational problem is simplistic
and dangerous. Tests are just one of many techniques to help students
achieve to the best of their abilities. What really matters is to make
sure every kid attends a great school."
Burmaster said: "Too often the national fervor is to 'leave no child
untested.' We should focus on how testing improves teaching and learning.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is working to ensure that
our testing program aligns with our state's standards and drives quality
instruction. Data from standardized testing must help teachers, other
educators, and policymakers make decisions that improve teaching and learning."
Turner echoed that sentiment. "You don't improve student learning
simply by giving them tests," he said.
The national report titled "Building Tests to Support Instruction
and Accountability" sets nine standards for states to use
when creating responsible state assessment systems (see sidebar on left
side of page).
"The standards provide useful guidelines for Wisconsin policymakers
considering more testing requirements," Johnson said. "We are
calling on Wisconsin policymakers to make sure that any testing requirements
comply with these standards."
Johnson said educators are not opposed to testing: testing can provide
useful measures of student achievement and improve instruction if conducted
"In these days of revenue controls and tight budgets, it is irresponsible
to require more tests without providing the resources to do them correctly,"
he said. "School districts can barely buy books, properly compensation
their staffs, or repair their roofs, much less administer expensive tests.
Because of revenue controls, school districts will not have the funds
to assist the state and federal governments in the testing efforts. They
do not have enough money to provide adequate ongoing professional development
that helps teachers and other staff assess performance or review alternative
educational strategies. In addition, teachers and staff lack adequate
materials in the classroom to implement identified strategies for student
Johnson said the funding issue is especially relevant in Wisconsin because
the Legislature did not provide adequate resources for the Department
of Public Instruction to develop the High School Graduation Test, which
will take effect in 2004.
WEAC called on policymakers to consider several issues when reviewing
- Tests should move beyond the almost exclusive use of multiple choice
items which do not do a good job of measuring problem-solving, creative
thinking, and other higher-order thinking skills. More authentic measures
of what students know and are able to do are needed.
- Tests should not be used for inappropriate purposes, such as making
decisions about graduation or promotion, or comparing districts and
schools. One single piece of evidence should not be used to make high-stakes
decisions that affect children's lives.
- Wisconsin needs reasonable performance standards. Standards need to
be set at reasonable levels that challenge students while being realistic.
The full report can be accessed online at www.aasa.org;
www.nea.org; and www.nmsa.org.
Posted October 23, 2001