Guest Column: Today’s news confirms what teachers say everywhere I go

By John Gile
Author, Editor, Journalist, Publisher

Trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent on test-based accountability systems in America’s schools “have shown little or no positive effect overall on learning and education,” a 10-year study by the National Academies of Science reports in today’s Education Week (May 27, 2011).

Fraudulent “gaming of the system to produce high test scores” is cited by the National Academies in the Education Week summary: “Staff and students facing accountability sanctions tend to focus on behavior that improves the test score alone, such as teaching test-taking strategies or drilling students who are closest to meeting the proficiency cut-score, rather than improving the overall learning that the test score is expected to measure. This undercuts the validity of the test itself.”

Education Week reports that the study found “a growing body of evidence of schools and districts tinkering with how and when students took the test to boost scores on paper for students who did not know the material—or to prevent those students from taking the test at all,” and that “for similar reasons, school-based accountability mechanisms under NCLB (No Child Left Behind) have generated minimal improvement in academic learning.”

Daniel M. Koretz, a National Academies’ member and an education professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass., told Education Week, “We need to look seriously at the costs and benefits of these programs. We have put a lot into these programs over a period of many years, and the positive effects, when we can find them, have been pretty disappointing.”

National Academies of Science member Kevin Lang, an economics professor at Boston University, told Education Week, “School boards need to have a means for monitoring the progress of their school systems, and they tend to do it by looking at test scores. It’s not that there’s no information in the objective performance measures, but they are imperfect, and including the subjective performance measures is also very important.”

John Gile is a Rockford author, publisher, and founder of JGC/United Publishing Corps. Information at:,,

From the June 1-7, 2011 issue

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