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[Susan notes: Ann Cook points out that the Houston scandal reveals the danger of looking for quick fixes--and is a lesson for everybody, not just Texans.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Gains in Houston Schools: How Real Are They?" (front page, Dec. 3): Tests are questionable proxies for skills we want kids to demonstrate in real life, but high-stakes tests that determine promotion or graduation are particularly harmful.

The danger of policies like Houston's and the No Child Left Behind law is that they corrupt the curriculum and the quality of teaching. Tests become the absolute value and "teaching to the test" the rule.

Complex skills, which require thoughtful analysis, in-depth learning, discussion and persistent work habits lose their value in a test-driven environment.

As several schools in New York State have proved, alternative assessments that reflect and encourage a challenging curriculum exist and have been successful.

As long as the country is looking for quick fixes, kids will continue to be damaged by phantom miracles.

Ann Cook, Chair, Time Out from Testing

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