scores sagged in 1994, then rebounded in 1998.
The boom in standardized tests reflects widespread concern about the quality of American education. In international comparisons, the United States ranks abysmally in math. In domestic comparisons, poor and minority students rank well behind whites in virtually every state, although the racial disparity has diminished over time.
There are some improvements, but they're slow and spotty. For example, on the standardized National Assessment of Educational Progress (the NAEP is sometimes called the "national report card on education"), math "performance improved steadily at all grade levels between 1990 and 1996," according to the federal "Condition of Education" report.
International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS):
National Center for Education Statistics
However, reading results are mixed. Average scores for 9- and 13-year olds "improved slightly between 1971 and 1980 and showed little or no change between 1980 and 1996. Scores for 17-year-olds have remained relatively consistent since 1971," according to NAEP.
The notion that American students rank alongside those of the Czech Republic in math caused politicians, educators -- even The Why Files -- to adopt "standard" educational goals designed to ensure that all students are being taught the right stuff.
Once the curriculum is standardized, then standardized tests are an obvious enforcement mechanism -- a way to assure taxpayers and politicians that their money is not being squandered.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress show a reduction in racial
disparities in reading over the past 30 years, but blacks and Hispanics
or false: Standardized tests can evaluate schools and students
Standardized tests -- whether used for student and school evaluation, graduation, college entry and other purposes -- have been on a roll for 20 years, and at this point, at least 26 states have some form of high-stakes test for high-school graduation, says David Gilman, who studies student evaluation at Indiana State University.
That, he says, is a disaster. Standardized tests are expensive, and teaching to them wastes time. Many slow-performing students, he says, spend essentially all their time preparing for tests. And then there's the attitude problem: Tests, he says, are promoted by those who think "school is the problem. They stick us with an accountability program, standardized tests, mandated assessments." Tests, he concludes, have "reduced education to numbers rather than learning."
True or False: Have tests helped education in Texas?
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