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[Susan notes: Excellent point: The Duncan plan makes the tests high-stakes for the teachers.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published

To the editor

Re: NY Times Editorial August 29 on Accountability in Public Schools

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan's efforts to link students' test scores to retention decisions for their teachers will do more harm than good. Assessment is an important part of education but when tests for young children are turned into high-stakes tests for their teachers, they become toxic.

This way of evaluating teacher effectiveness puts pressure on teachers to compete for teaching positions where they will work with children who traditionally score well on tests, and avoid teaching positions where they will work with the neediest children. It also puts pressure on teachers to teach to the test, not to the standards, and to the subjects on the test, not to the full curriculum, especially when they are teaching the neediest children.

In the long run, turning tests for young children into high-stakes tests for their teachers will accentuate, not narrow, the achievement gap.

Margaret Moustafa is a Professor of Education,

California State University, Los Angeles

Margaret Moustafa

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