Chicago Schools Need More Investments, Not More Standardized Tests

February 18, 2015

According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should make federal funding of public schools dependent on students’ scores on yearly standardized tests. On January 12 Duncan called on Congress to mandate that students take “annual, statewide assessments that are aligned to their teachers’ classroom instruction in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.” 

Unless schools distort the curriculum to accommodate high-stakes standardized testing requirements, they risk losing federal funding. 

In addition, schools which do not make “adequate yearly progress” on tests face an escalating menu of penalties, including loss of Title I funds (monies earmarked for high poverty areas), firing of staff, take over by the state, possible privatization, etc.

In Chicago, principals reward and punish teachers based on their students’ test scores, forcing teachers to “teach to the test” and restrict the curriculum. Students, who for a variety of reasons, simply do not perform well on such tests find themselves more and more under the gun.

In Chicago, standardized tests play an important role in the rating system used by the Board of Education. Schools in which students do not perform well on the tests can be placed on probation, taken over directly by the Board (and its teachers dismissed) or even closed altogether.

In addition, high-stakes, standardized testing only diverts needed time and resources away from education into test-taking and record-keeping.

In short, standardized tests are being used as a means to punish students, cut funding for schools, and cover over the government’s failure to invest the funds needed to guarantee the education of our children.

It is obvious to anyone that test results – at best – only reflect the educational inputs received by students in the first place. Thus mandating standardized tests without improving inputs – lowering class sizes, modernizing schools and curriculum, hiring more teachers and staff, etc. – will not “improve performance.” 

In fact, far from improving inputs, funding is being cut for the steadily increasing number of schools which are labeled as failing. The capitalist politicians are using standardized testing as an excuse to withdraw needed investments and to blame the public school system itself. 

The public school system is one of the great achievements of our country and rather than finding ways to condemn the schools and tear them down, the government must make more investments. 

Education is a Right, Not a Privilege!