Bob Shepherd: Why High-Stakes Testing is an Act of Violence Against Students

This post by Diane Ravitch, where she shared Bob Shepherd’s comments about standardized testing, really resonated with me.

Shepherd’s comments are spot on. What he said is the reason I quit in 2016. And they are the source of my frustration now that I am back in the classroom.

Until we realize this – “Standardized testing is a vampire that sucks the lifeblood out of education” – and do this – “Put a stake in it” – by upturning state legislation that requires us to use standardized test scores to make high-stakes decisions, THERE WILL BE NO IMPROVEMENT. Nothing will change, nothing will get better, nothing will improve – our attitudes about public education, our students’ performance and desire to learn, NOTHING – until we do this.

It IS that serious.

Testing is a disease that all our legislators are sick with, and the only cure is to TRUST TEACHERS and get rid of the tests.

And if we can’t get rid of the tests, then there is something we can do. We can put these tests in their place. To do that, we must remove ALL the high stakes that are attached to them. That means teacher evaluations, student grades, grading schools and districts according to them, judging real estate markets on “good school” defined by them… ALL OF IT. All of the high-stakes decisions that are made because of test scores. If we truly do that, we will be left with a test that students take each year that simply give us a snapshot of how they are doing and nothing more. We had that before NCLB took over and brought us to where we are today.

I also want to share some of the comments, which also really touched me. Here they are:


Thank you for this, Bob! We need an army of us old war horses! Here’s a paragraph from my book: “Good Behavior and Audacity”:

Here is where I permit myself a tirade. Testing. I have the chops to say what I am going to say. I’ve spent years in the classroom, and I share my concern with tens of thousands of teachers who have observed classrooms numbed by incessant test preparation. I’ve witnessed the terror in seven-year-old faces, the tears, the vomiting, the quivering chins, and the shaking hands (as though today’s children did not have enough cause for stress in their innocence). I’ve seen teenagers wilt with boredom after hours of studying test-taking skills and simply disappear into daydreams or rebel with outrageous behaviors. I know brilliant adults who have internalized a “below average” assessment of their own intellect for their entire lives because of one totally irrelevant SAT or IQ score. I’ve attended days of professional development, with free lunch provided, teaching me how to legally boost test scores. I know all the tricks. It’s legal but it’s still cheating! None of it, not one second of it, constitutes what I consider education.

And Bob Shepherd’s response:

Beautifully said, Ms. Lithgow! And spot on. And yes, test prep improves test scores, up to a point. It familiarizes kids with the formats of the tests and gives them some tricks to apply to answering the questions. That’s why test prep companies can offer money-back guarantees if their test prep classes don’t result in point increases on tests like the SAT. But what a waste of dis’ time and emotional energy!!! People not in the classroom or in the educational publishing biz fail to understand the extent to which the test prep has metastasized throughout our curricula–pushing out quality instruction. The opportunity costs of this are breathtaking.

The federal standardized testing has had horrific effects on K-12 education, and it will not end until we see MASSIVE nonviolent resistance of the kind that could best be organized by our teachers’ unions. The union leaders need to understand that they have a moral obligation, an obligation to the next generation of kids, to lead this resistance, and the time is ripe. The kids and parents and teachers hate these tests, for good reason. And, a lot more teachers hate them than will admit to this because many live in fear of the Occupation forces in their schools. Teachers talk about this among themselves and then dutifully put up their “data walls” and conduct their “data chats” because otherwise, they will be fired.

stand test

All this reliance on high-stakes testing and scores has led to this over emphasis on DATA. Teachers are stressed to the limits because of it. We can’t teach students because we have to focus so much on test data.

Every time I’m in a meeting where we are discussing test data and data walls and data chats and data points and on and on and on, my soul dies a little. And it’s those days I go home and question my decision to come back to the classroom.

Something has got to change. We must TRUST TEACHERS TO TEACH and get all the legislation OUT of our schools. Accountability has become something so twisted that it is ruining our children and their love of learning and forcing teachers to say goodbye to their passion of educating others. YES, IT IS THAT SERIOUS.

Tim Slekar, dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College, recently said this same thing and more – this is a great interview.

What I really want to do is SCREAM all this to our legislators because they are the ones holding the power on this issue.

Here’s the original post:

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bob Shepherd, our resident scholar, wrote this insightful comment:

Anyone who has taught high-school kids knows that they are extremely emotionally unstable. It’s a difficult time. It’s the time in which we all struggle with establishing an identity that will be acceptable to/accepted by the others around us. One way in which kids do that is by rebelling against their parents and teachers and older authorities in general. This rebellion can take forms both positive and negative.

On the positive side, many turn to resistance against how older people have messed things up for them–have given them human-caused climate change or dying oceans or Trump and his stupid wall. On the negative side, many turn to destructive behaviors of which older people disapprove–drinking and drugs and petty theft (shoplifting) and dangerous sexual experimentation for which they are not ready physically or emotionally. High-school kids tend to be extreme about everything–extremely…

View original post 623 more words

2 thoughts on “Bob Shepherd: Why High-Stakes Testing is an Act of Violence Against Students

  1. Yes. I agree. I have raised 2 children who are now adults. I have a granddaughter who is a high school freshman. I have taught in public schools for 13 years. No one cares that I have years of experience in raising children or in teaching. All that anyone wants is “data.”

    Liked by 1 person

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