The belief that high-stakes testing will bring any improvement to our public schools is built on an ounce of wishful thinking, a pound of good intentions and a ton of ignorance.
Consider the recent history of high-stakes testing in the State of Washington. We spent more than a decade and a billion dollars on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) only to find that the test was deeply flawed. The WASL didn’t align with college or career readiness, and it basically tried to measure student achievement of standards that were so poorly written they were impossible to measure by any kind of assessment.
Despite these major flaws, legislators, the public, business leaders and most of the media ignorantly assumed that something meaningful was happening by requiring students to pass this bogus exam. Unfortunately, the only meaningful thing that was happening was teachers throughout our state were forced to try and teach to this test despite the fact that it didn’t align to anything that was important for students to know. The WASL was a test built around standards that de-emphasized student content knowledge and supposedly would teach students to think more deeply and become expert problem solvers. In the end, the main problem that many students now have to solve is how to go through life being mathematically illiterate.