High stakes

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Shenandoah University
Leesburg, Virginia

High Stakes testing: fair or not

Essay as a requirement of the class:
Foundations of Education (Ed 510)
Professor Jurgen Combs

High Stakes testing: Fair or not
By Angelizabeth Pérez

Many things have been said about high stakes tests. Different experts validate and support the use of these tests, while others blame these test and theircreators for the frustration of many and for lowering the quality of teaching to the point of changing a whole system in order to teach the test. Many questions arise from this topic such as: Who decides the content of the exam? Who decides who is to be well educated? Are schools responsible for preparing students for the workplace or for teaching them to think and decide for themselves what theyshould learn?

Before talking about high stakes exams we have to define high stakes exams. According to the Educational Council of Diagnostic Services paper of position on the exams for high stakes, high stakes, exams are the competency examinations administered by the district or state to students. They are the only measure used to make critical decisions about students and their teachers and/orschools. They don’t take into account student performance in class.
High stakes tests have implications on state or federal funds obtained by the districts. Aggregates scores are used to determine whether specifics schools are making sufficient yearly progress. At the moment 23 states use these tests to determine if the student passes or not passes and if the student gets a degree after 12thgrade. In some districts, the scores are used to determine if the student receives scholarships or not or if it is accepted as part of the honor roll.

The blame or credit for the success or failure in these examinations is mainly shared among teachers or principals and/or administrative staff. In some states, teachers and staff are rewarded for good performance with bonds while in others schoolsteachers, the Principal, and staff were dismissed because of low academic achievement. The interest in achieving has caused some districts to offer the financial rewards to the students. The latter caused so much commotion that some critics compared these bonds to "bribes".

The dismissals of staff and school closing are cause for much criticism. In the book "Shame of the Nation" Jonathan Kozoltells among other educational experiences how many teachers and schools that received bonuses for good performance on the tests one year. Then the next year, they were added in the list of schools with low academic performance. This is because they had to admit students from schools that were closed due to poor performance or students who chose to change schools because their parents saw in thepress that the school they were attending appeared on the list of low performance.

With all these adverse consequences, it is logical to ask whether in fact the reviews are necessary, fair, or whether they respond to the reality of schools evaluated and even more to the curriculum taught. Who decides which company administers the exam? Who determines whether the review is designed appropriately?What effect does the examination have on the student? Does this review really reflect the abilities of students? When did the idea come about for these test?
In the book "What does it mean to be well educated?" by Alfie Kohn the author argues that high stakes tests were imposed on the schools by politicians (and corporate executives) for political reasons. He gave an example of the situationthat happened in Ontario, Canada to present his point of view:

- In September 1995 John Snobelen the Minister of Education and Training of Ontario by the newly elected conservative government announced to his senior staff that their job was to invent a crisis on education. To do so he added, required "some skills" because the school was actually in better shape than I had though.
- That the...
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