|Letter to Editor of NY Times Magazine in response
to the article on High Stakes Tests (4-7-02)
High stakes standardized tests are an international phenomenon. They
represent a powerful intrusion into classrooms, often taking up as
40% of teacher time. The tests pretend that one standard fits all,
standard does not fit all.
High-stakes test pretend to neutrality but are deeply partisan in content,
reflecting the needs of elites in a world becoming more inequitable,
democratic, becoming commodities for opportunists whose interests
profits, not the best interests of children. The exams amount to a
and low, horizon for learning.
Big Tests gauge for the most part, parental income and race, and
therefore instruments which build racism and anti-working class
sentiment--against the interest of most teachers and their students.
These tests deepen the segregation of children within and between school
systems. Inner-city families and poor families are promised tests as
avenue to escape the ghetto and poverty, when the tests are designed
fail their children, boosting dropouts, leaving more children trapped
the ghetto and poverty, deepening inequality.
The tests foment an atmosphere of greed, fear, and hysteria, none of
contributes to learning. The tests create an atmosphere that
against students and teachers against teachers and school systems against
school systems in a mad scramble for financial rewards, and to avoid
The tests set up a false employer-employees relationship between teachers
and students which damages honest exchanges in the classroom, shattering
vital relationship that is key to learning
We have seen repeatedly that the exams are unprofessionally scored,
example in New York in 2000 when thousands of students were unnecessarily
ordered to summer school on the grounds of incorrect test results.
The tests have been used to unjustly fire and discipline caring
throughout the country. In addition, the exams have been used to excuse
abolition of elected school boards and the takeover of school districts,
in Detroit, where the assault on voting rights is leading to civil
The Big Tests are not educational tools, but financial weapons. In Michigan
the exam is administered not by the Education Department, but by Treasury.
The exams represent an assault on academic freedom by forcing their
into the classroom in an attempt to regulate knowledge, what is known
how people come to know it.
The tests destroy inclusion and inquiry-based education.
Education organizations like the faculty association of the National
Council for the Social Studies and the American Educational Research
Association have supported long-term authentic assessment, and
high-stakes standardized examinations. That there is a rising tide
education-worker resistance to the high-stakes exams, as well as student
and educator boycotts involving leaders from communities both rich
should be no surprise.
Dr Rich Gibson
The Rouge Forum
San Diego State University College of Education San Diego Ca