Ways to Measure Schools Without High-Stakes Testing

Jay Matthews:

Who is going to be our next education president? I know, but I’m not telling. Most of The Washington Post’s political reporters these days are young, strong and potentially dangerous. They have warned me about previous attempts to tread on their turf. So I am going to confine myself to helpful advice for our future chief executive, without revealing that person’s name.
I have gotten some astute assistance in this effort from Sharon L. Nichols, an educational psychologist who is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of education at Arizona State University. Their 2007 book “Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools” is the latest selection to our Better Late Than Never Book Club, this column’s way of spotlighting good work that I really should have read when it appeared months, sometimes years, before.
Nichols and Berliner attack from all sides the state testing that we use to assess schools under the No Child Left Behind law. Their analysis is clear, their arguments strong. What particularly impressed me was their willingness to suggest viable alternatives to testing as a way for us voters, parents and taxpayers to know which of our schools are doing well and which are not, a service to which some critics of testing seem to think we are not entitled.