Monday, January 9, 2017

A business lesson for schools: only test small groups

Submitted to the Los Angeles Times, Jan. 9, 2017

Samuel Abrams' fifth "business lesson" for schools ("The wrong and right business lessons for schools," January 8) is to stop testing every student but use only "high quality exams administered to small groups of students," as in done in Finland. Research by distinguished scholar David Berliner and his colleagues supports this recommendation: more testing does not result in higher test scores. 

We can do this now using the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), a highly respected standardized test given to small groups of students who each take a portion of the test every few years. Results are extrapolated to estimate how larger groups (states, large districts) would score, and the NAEP is used to compare our achievement to that of other countries.

Let's find out if the NAEP tells us what we need to know about student performance, and whether the time-consuming and expensive tests we currently give students add any useful information.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

"More testing does not result in higher test scores: Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). OECD.


  1. Reminds me of the situation in quantum physics which says that by observing an experiment you cannot help but affect its outcome. Therefore, by testing every child you risk adversely affecting everyone. That is, testing has the potential to disrupt the learning process.

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