Testing Alone Won't Fix Achievement Gap, Study Says
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
If the achievement gap between white and minority students closes it will be because state legislators pass laws that shrink classes, improve teaching and offer quality pre-schooling. It wont be because the schools are required to test students, a study by the Center on Education Policy(CEP) indicates.
"It's irresponsible to lead the public to believe that testing and accountability alone will close the achievement gap," says Jack Jennings, Director of CEP, an independent advocacy organization for public schools. "Research shows that, to succeed, we need a comprehensive approach to a complex problem."
"It Takes More Than Testing: Closing the Achievement Gap" uses 25-years worth of test scores and student performance indicators to explain the complicated issues that account for differences in student achievement. By the end of the decade, minority students will make up 34 percent of the school-age population.
The testing and accountability measures getting the most attention from political leaders and the media are likely to do little to deal with the achievement gap, Jennings says.
The report contends that most proposed fixes for what ails U.S. public schools aren't comprehensive enough. The authors recommend that states invest in teacher development; lower class size in high-minority schools; make challenging academic courses with rigorous instruction available in the same schools; use well-researched methods for raising student achievement; expand preschool; provide mentors and extra teaching time, and encourage parental involvement.
The report is critical of "high stakes" policies such as graduation exams and targeting schools for rewards or sanctions. "When tests are improperly used for high stakes decisions, they can reinforce racial/ethnic inequalities instead of reducing them," it says.