Stakeholder Starting Points

Is testing improving education?

Local Leaders
& Administrators

More than 8 in 10 principals say that it is very important to use data on student performance to improve instruction. But administrators are also concerned about testing’s limited accuracy, its potential to be used to punish schools and teachers, and some of its negative effects on educational quality, curriculum, and relationships with parents. One principal said: “I don’t have much faith in what comes out of a high-stakes test, other than how well a kid takes a high-stakes test on that specific day at that specific time.”


Even though most teachers accept the need for some testing, more than half see “too must testing” as a major drawback of teaching, and more than 7 in 10 say test scores are less important than other measures in judging student progress. Only 26% of teachers say that standardized test results accurately reflect students’ achievement. Less than half say that students take the tests seriously and perform to the best of their ability. A New Orleans special education teacher, said: “The focus is straight on testing. It’s too high of a priority.”

Parents & The Broader Public
In 2010, 7 in 10 Americans said they favored annual mandatory testing in school to judge how the schools are doing. But in more recent polling, less than a quarter of Americans believe that increased testing has actually helped local public schools. People’s mixed views on testing emerged frequently in focus groups for this project. A Chicago parent was typical: "There does need to be accountability and there does need to be some sort of way to document progress. But we've become so hyper-focused on the test. Where is the balance?” In Baltimore, a local pastor worried that “some of the curriculum is designed so that you’re teaching to the test. They’re really not learning anything except how to pass a test.”

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