High-stakes testing does more harm than good (“Evaluate MCAS, but don’t abandon tests”). It has produced narrowed curriculum, teaching to the test, and a massive explosion of testing and test prep that has undermined instruction. If the goal is high-level student learning, there are far better assessment tools. A great example is the New York Performance Standards Consortium, which educates its public school students through project-based learning and performance-based assessments. The schools are exempt from four of five state graduation tests.
Students create their own tasks, which are scored with a guide designed by the consortium’s teachers. Samples are re-scored to ensure consistency across schools.
Students also defend their projects before a committee, including an outside expert. The results are outstanding: higher graduation, college attendance, and college persistence rates and lower disciplinary and teacher turnover rates. Consortium students are demographically representative of the New York City public school population.
New Hampshire is beginning to transition to performance assessments instead of tests, and other states are interested. Massachusetts should make performance assessments its top priority and reduce standardized tests to a few grades with no high stakes.