Stanford Professor Darling-Hammond on America’s Testing Fixation and Frenzy

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Just recently on National Public Radio (NPR), current Stanford Professor and former runner-up to being appointed by President Obama as the US Secretary of Education (Obama appointed current secretary Arne Duncan instead) Linda Darling-Hammond was interviewed about why she thought “School Testing Systems Should Be Examined In 2014.”

Her reasons?

  • Post No Child Left Behind (that positioned states as the steroids of educational reform) America’s public schools have seen no substantive changes, or more specifically gains for the better, as intended. According to Darling-Hammond, “We’re actually not doing any better than we were doing a decade ago” when NCLB was first passed into legislation (2002).
  • “When No Child Left Behind was passed back in 2002, there was a target set for each year for each school [in each state] that [students in each state] would get to a place where 100 percent of students would be, quote/unquote ‘proficient’ on the state tests. Researchers knew even then that would be impossible.” Accordingly, and in many ways unfortunately, all states have since failed to meet this target (i.e., 100% proficiency), as falsely assumed, and predicted, and used as political rhetoric to endorse and pass NCLB by both republicans and democrats, making for one of the first bipartisan educational policies of its time.
  • “Testing has some utility, if you use it in thoughtful ways” but in our country we are lacking serious thought and consideration about that which tests can and should do versus that which they cannot and should not do.

Moving forward we MUST “change our policies around the nature of testing, the amount of testing, and the uses of testing…and move [forward] from a test-and-punish philosophy – which was the framework for No Child Left Behind…to an assess-and-improve philosophy.” More importantly, we MUST “address childhood poverty” as this, not testing and holding teachers accountable for their students’ test scores, is where true reform should be positioned

While “certainly [a] good education is a [good] way out of poverty…we [still must] address some of these issues that adhere to poverty itself” and perpetually cause (and are significantly and substantially related to) low levels of student learning and low levels of achievement. “The two are completely intertwined, and we have to work on both at the same time.”

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