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[Susan notes: In answer to a call from NCTE that we all write our governors before February 25 when the 2005 National Education Summit convenes, here is one teacher's letter.]

Published in The Governor
11/11/2004

To the editor

Dear Governor:



Expansion of standardized testing in high school as part of the No Child Left Behind Act would be a serious mistake.



One year ago, three respected research organizations examined the accomplishments, shortcomings and continuing challenges of public

>school accountability in California. The organizations were Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), American Institutes for Research (AIR), and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE). Their findings, summarized in a Policy Brief entitled "Assessing Californiašs Accountability System," revealed that key assumptions underlying the Public Schools Accountability Act are unsupported by scientific research and are not proving to be true in practice.



Among the key findings of this unprecedented research:



  • Rewards and threats of sanctions have not proved an adequate motivating force for changing school practices and increasing student achievement. There was little evidence that monetary rewards or threatened severe sanctions tied to student test scores provided effective incentives to leaders or schools.




  • Educators in the lowest-performing schools often reported insufficient resources or knowledge to significantly improve school practices and student learning and the accountability system does not provide sufficient capacity-building opportunities. Even when sufficient human capacity was present, requisite resources were often not forthcoming or were insufficient. The unrealistic expectations of the accountability system could lead to a sense of frustration, even futility.




  • There are numerous problems with the state standards on which the accountability system is based, including concerns that there are too

    many standards and that some standards are set unreasonably high.




  • Standardized test data has been 'less than fully effective' in helping educators make instructional decisions. While the test results

    may provide a broad picture of student achievement, the data were not necessarily useful to teachers developing specific instructional

    strategies for improvement.




  • The overall conclusion from these three studies was stated unequivocally:

    It is important to recognize that an external system of assessment cannot in and of itself drive educators in the lowest-performing

    schools to improve student achievement. Moreover, it cannot compensate for a lack of resources.




    The assumptions underlying Californiašs accountability system are identical to those on which the federal No Child Left Behind Act is

    premised. The lack of research support for these assumptions should cause us to pause before mandating a further massive expansion of

    test-based accountability in high school.

    George Sheridan


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