Home » Uncategorized » Something I find a little hilarious about the arguments in defense of high stakes testing

Something I find a little hilarious about the arguments in defense of high stakes testing


I’ve pretty much heard all the arguments for and against high stakes testing, and feel pretty confident that I wholeheartedly disagree with it and can give a solid counter argument to any arguments for high stakes testing.

But recently I’ve been getting some new arguments that… kind of throw me for a loop.

Whenever I say that test scores shouldn’t be a factor in teacher evaluation or determining school progress (and likewise funding for schools making progress) because they are an unreliable source of data that can’t capture student performance, let alone teacher performance or school performance, I get either or both of these response:

  1. Why do you care so much about teachers/schools? This should be about the kids!
  2. Test scores are only [some percentage] of [something]!

These throw me for a loop because they’re kind of ridiculous. The first one is easy. Caring about kids means also caring for the teachers that are dedicated to educating them and the schools that are their learning communities. That’s how you care about kids. And don’t forget that testing hurts kids (not just teachers and schools) as well. If you don’t believe that, then you aren’t looking closely enough.

Now to the second argument. It’s a phrase that would be a fact without one word. And that word is “only.” 

When I hear that tests ONLY account for a certain percentage of teacher evaluation or school progress reports in various states and districts, I hear a concession. I hear an acknowledgement that a lesser percentage would probably be more beneficial for students and schools. I hear a, “Chill out, Hannah! Yeah, it’s a problem but at least it’s only a percentage of a problem!”

And this is what I don’t understand. If people see the issues with testing, why do they still allow it to factor into pivotal decisions that impact students? 



  1. The analogy completely breaks down if your replace “testing” with arsenic. Just a thought….

  2. oops. Posted too quickly. It’s the “testing only counts for a small percentage” of a teacher’s evaluation. it’s still arsenic as part of the evaluation witches brew.

    • Hannah says:

      Ah, yes, amazing point. And the hilarious part is this “small percentage” they speak of ranges from 30-70%. Outrageous.

      • Yup, given the wide range, it brings the whole “valid and reliable measure” thang in to open mockery. I call these schemes the “litigation forever plan,” since every educator who gets caught in this mess, should sue their respective school districts for psychometric fraud.

      • Hannah says:

        Exactly! Great points. We cannot keep perpetuating a system that has historically put many students at a disadvantage. Thanks for your meaningful and insightful input, Catherine!

  3. Excellent analysis. My counter to number one is always that high stakes testing is firstly damaging to students in myriad ways. Most importantly, it reduces them to mere receptacles for for knowledge — a oppressive condition Freire so brilliantly wrote about. Amazingly, neoliberal reformers embrace the banking system of education, there’s a scene in Davis Guggenheim’s awful film where they pour information into a cartoon student’s head. Lack of meaningful understanding of pedagogy, child development, and the effects of poverty are the hallmarks of policies like NCLB, RTTT, and CCSS.

    • Hannah says:

      Thank you, Robert!

      I definitely remember the scene you are referring to from that horrid documentary, Waiting for Superman. My biggest concern and problem with most reformers is that they simply don’t listen and care to understand the complexities of the situations they are trying to “reform” with top-down policies.

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