Teachers Say Too Much Testing Undermines Educational Quality

K-12 Testing

FairTest Examiner, November 2009

Ninety percent of teachers view the current overemphasis on standardized testing as detrimental to education, according to a recent survey by Public Agenda. Overall, 58% of respondents said too much testing is a major drawback, while 32% said it was a minor drawback. The survey attracted attention for its attempt to depict respondents as "contented," "disheartened" or "idealist," but the great majority of teachers in all three groups criticized "too much testing." A separate survey comparing younger with older teachers reported that both groups believe test scores are not strong measures of student success. All groups agreed that tying teacher pay to students would not be an effective way to improve teacher performance, would lead to principals playing favorites and to unhealthy competition among teachers.

The first survey asked: "Q6. Based on your personal experience, please tell us whether [too much testing] is a major drawback, a minor drawback, or not a drawback for you." Eighty-three percent of the contented said it was a drawback (49% major, 34% minor); 95% of the disheartened agreed (70%, 25%), as did 94% of the idealists (52%, 42%).

In response to other questions, three quarters of the teachers said that "student test scores are less important than a lot of other measures." Two-thirds agreed that "Tying teacher rewards to their students’ performance" would not be an effective improvement approach.

The Public Agenda analysis portrays the "idealists" as largely new to the profession, with many working in low-income schools. Apparently, it does not take new teachers long to find out testing is an obstacle to doing good work. The "contented" are largely long-term teachers working in wealthier suburbs, where pressure to teach to the test is a problem. The issue is most significant in low-income schools, which is where most of the "disheartened" teach.