Punishing Students

August 19, 2003

As the accompanying article shows, high-stakes standardized tests are being used by the government to justify slashing funds for schools in the poorest communities and paving the way for privatization of our country's public schools. These tests are also being used to attack students and deny working class and minority youth their right to an education.

Recently the mayor of New York City as well as top officials from the school board admitted that every year thousands of high school students, expelled for alleged "discipline" problems or other reasons, are in reality being "pushed out" by principals and administrators trying to show improvement in their school's scores on standardized tests. Administrators in many other cites, including Miami, Houston, Birmingham and others, have made similar admissions.

In addition, many state governments have passed laws mandating that students pass standardized tests in order to be promoted and/or to earn a high school diploma. Hundreds of thousands of students, who have fulfilled all their course requirements and earned passing grades, have been denied promotion and degrees on this basis.

In other words, these high stakes standardized tests are punitive - thwarting student progress in school and in the job market. Aside from the obvious limitations and biases built into standardized tests, such exams can, at best, only reflect the educational inputs received by the students. If students are passing their classes and failing standardized tests, the problem is with the test or the system, not the students.

Once again, the students are being blamed and punished for the failures of the government and the school authorities.