Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Revealing and closing the achievement gap: Standardized testing does neither

Sent to the NY Times, April 5, 2016

"Big question on New York State Tests," (April 5) reports that one of the arguments in favor of a robust standardized testing program is to reveal achievement gaps.  But we already know which children are doing poorly and we know what to do about it.

Decades of research has revealed that the major cause of the achievement gap is the effects of poverty, including poor nutrition, lack of health care, and little or no access to books: the best teaching in the world will not help if children are hungry, ill, and have nothing to read.

There is no evidence that massive testing closes the achievement gap, and plenty of evidence that improving the economy, or at least protecting children from the effects of poverty, does.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/nyregion/big-question-on-new-york-state-tests-how-many-will-opt-out.html?_r=0

The effects of poverty: Berliner, D. 2009. Poverty and Potential:  Out-of-School Factors and School Success.  Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential;   Krashen, S. 1997. Bridging inequity with books. Educational Leadership  55(4): 18-22.

"There is no evidence massive testing" Nichols, S., Glass, G., and Berliner, D. 2006. High-stakes testing and student achievement: Does accountability increase student learning? Education Policy Archives 14(1). http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v14n1/. OECD. Tienken, C., 2011. Common core standards: An example of data-less decision-making. Journal of Scholarship and Practice. American Association of School Administrators [AASA], 7(4): 3-18. http://www.aasa.org/jsp.aspx.

Improving the economy ....:  Baker, K. 2007. Are international tests worth anything? Phi Delta Kappan, 89(2), 101-104; Zhao, Y. 2009. Catching Up or Leading the Way? American Education in the Age of Globalization. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.; Ananat, E., Gassman-Pines, A., Francis, D., and Gibson-Davis, C. 2011. Children left behind: The effects of statewide job less on student acbievement. NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) Working Paper No. 17104, JEL No. 12,16. http://www.nber.org/papers/w17104

At least protect: Coles, G. 2008/2009. Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference. Rethinking Schools 23 (2). Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited (second edition).


  1. Yes - testing in the US is all about data collection. It doesn't really have much to do with learning. While this is certainly true for low income students and struggling schools, it's also true across the board. Here's a post I wrote about teachers are turning into data gatherers -- and not only is it not helping student learning but it's dehumanizing the teaching profession. http://mayathiagarajan.blogspot.sg/2016/02/awash-in-data-perils-of-data-driven.html

  2. While there is little to no evidence that standardized testing aids children, I would argue that there is a growing mass of evidence that standardized testing HURTS children in multiple ways. In my opinion, the standardized testing of diverse student populations is not only wrong, it is immoral.