Myth-busting the most common arguments for high-stakes testing

A vintage poster of a magician performing an illusion.
A vintage poster of a magician performing an illusion.

Most people, even some educators, don’t really understand high-stakes standardized testing. This lack of understanding continues to fuel our national obsession with testing, even after knowing the harms it inflicts.

The good news is that you don’t have to take a graduate-level statistics course to get a real idea how high-stakes testing works. It just takes a little myth-busting. Here are some of the most common arguments for high-stakes testing.

Growth in test scores over time will tell us if a school is improving.

If the test is norm-referenced (that is, scores are compared to a national average), growth may…


Thank you Justin. Sometimes one feels one is merely screaming into the void. Lately though, I believe there are more and more people realizing the necessity of human centered/student centered schooling. Even if the goal is to simply increase test scores (a sad goal if there ever was one), these goals are not attained with the current inflexible top-down standardized educational format. Our focus should begin with the individual students themselves. Instead of placing humans within a framework of expectations, the framework should arise from humans themselves. As technology advances, this is all the more imperative. Thank you for the support!


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The Invasion of SEL Software in K-12 Education

The recent appeal for more mental health services has caused school districts to adopt software touting SEL (social-emotional learning) capabilities. Such programs as GoGuardian, Panorama, and Harmony SEL are now in thousands of schools across the nation. While the need for more mental health supports in schools is evident, the rapid adoption of technology has occurred without adequate scrutiny and parental awareness. Even teachers and district administrators blindly accept these companies’ claims to improve behavior and dramatically drop suicide rates. But such businesses base their product’s effectiveness on few research studies of little value.¹ …


The MAP test is all show and no go.

Scrap the MAP. More teaching. Less testing!
Scrap the MAP. More teaching. Less testing!
Source: Scrap the MAP!
Solidarity with Seattle teachers boycotting the MAP test

In every state of the nation, there is a standardized test that rarely gets noticed. And yet, in many states, these tests are given six times each year and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.¹ By the time a student graduates, these tests take up two months of instructional time.² This is the MAP test (Measure of Academic Progress), an instrument that purportedly shows what students know and how fast they are learning. With such claims, what parent, educator, or policymaker wouldn’t approve of such a test. …


surveillance cameras looking down at two teenagers
surveillance cameras looking down at two teenagers
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Seven reasons that teachers should use student monitoring software carefully.

As schools teach more and more students online, school districts are increasingly adopting monitoring software to ensure appropriate device use among students. While student misuse of school-issued laptops can be problematic, districts and teachers can, unfortunately, use this reason to justify an inappropriate reliance upon such software. The legal and ethical issues surrounding computer monitoring software use are often not addressed sufficiently during teacher training, making misuse all the more probable.¹ …


frustrated woman with hair sticking out
frustrated woman with hair sticking out
Image by Katy Sandvoss from Pixabay

It’s eleven in the morning, and I have a splitting headache. I just finished an argument with my 12-year-old. Instead of paying attention to his classes online, he was playing video games. The dispute ended in screams and threats to take doors off of hinges.

I take a couple of breaths, composing myself, and sit down to check my email. I’m not surprised to see a message from my son’s school about their return to hybrid learning next week. I’m more than a little relieved, looking forward to some sense of normalcy. Instead of focusing on instruction, I read that…


Little girl holding a card saying “I’m smart”.
Little girl holding a card saying “I’m smart”.
Creator: Steven Depolo

Although I realize social media’s ability to propel a logical adult into a doom pit of despair and hopelessness, I still scroll well after my established bedtime. As a parent and former teacher, I zero in on the outrages of educators and parents caught up in the maelstrom of pandemic schooling. I, too, get caught up in the injustice of it all; the anger, the outrage. I’m tired of Zoom school. I’m tired of digitally monitoring my child’s every action on Teams. I’m tired of checking my child’s online attendance. I’m tired of the emails and robocalls from the district…


What do students with low grades deserve? You may think this is a strange question, but we in schools make many decisions based on what we believe the answer to this question is. If you asked most educators if they felt it is right to penalize low achieving students, you would more than likely receive an adamant, “Of course not!”. But often, we do punish them.

This method not only leads to the sorting and segregation of students; it also conveys a message to students that they do not deserve what other children deserve because they are not learning at…


wolf in sheep’s clothing
wolf in sheep’s clothing

Too often, we hear calls for research-based remediation for struggling schools and students. And too often, these are the students and schools that are in low-income, struggling neighborhoods. Educational disparities, typically in the form of low standardized test scores, expose the reality for many students who fail to excel academically. Commonly, for these students, by the time they reach 8th grade, they are three to four grade levels behind in reading. Revisit these same children three years later, and there’s a greater than average chance they have dropped out of school. There is no question these students need help. …

Shelley Buchanan, M.A.

Former educator, school librarian, and school technology coordinator. Learning will set you free.

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