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Commentary: How to end ‘teaching to the test’

LA School Report | February 23, 2015



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By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

When U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last year that the incessant focus on testing was “sucking the oxygen” out of public school classrooms, his statement seemed like a pointed criticism of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and of his own long-standing policies. For the last 14 years, the law has pressured public schools to raise scores in math and reading; that in turn has led schools to “teach to the test” — and to administer increasing numbers of interim tests throughout the year, as schools and individual teachers have tried to determine whether students are on track to score well on the all-important year-end exams.

But it turned out that Duncan wasn’t saying what critics of No Child Left Behind had hoped: that there should be fewer standardized tests, which are taken annually in grades three through eight and once in high school. Instead, Duncan proposed giving states incentives to get rid of other “redundant and low-quality” exams. The problem is that as long as there are annual high-stakes tests, schools are going to prepare for them with their own tests.

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