NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Scores Up, Despite Opposition From "No-Testing Crowd"

February 27, 2001

President George W. Bush's education proposals lean heavily on student testing to measure how well schools are improving students' education. But the testing route has its detractors and just last week Bush acknowledged that he faces opposition from the "no-testing crowd."

Those who oppose tests object to them on a number of grounds. They complain that tests are biased against minorities and their cultures; that they encourage teachers to "teach to the test," rather than impart understanding to students; that emphasis on testing reduces or eliminates programs and activities that help to balance education -- such as challenging electives in music or the arts.

But evidence is beginning to surface in some areas that testing does contribute to learning.

  • The Los Angeles school district -- the nation's second largest -- announced this month that 361 of 656 tested schools met the year's improvement goals.
  • A study by Jay Greene of the Manhattan Institute established that failing Florida schools -- faced with the threat that students might be given vouchers if performance didn't improve -- showed larger improvements on standardized test scores than schools which didn't face that threat.
  • At Merritt Elementary Extended School in Washington, D.C. -- where many children from low-income homes take weekly test drills -- scores have risen the past three years, and math scores there average in the top 30 percent nationwide.

Only 15 states now have their own standardized tests for third through eighth grades. Bush's plan is to help states develop high standards and the tests to measure them.

Source: Tamara Henry and Martin Kasindorf, "Testing Could Be the Test for Bush Plan," USA Today, February 27, 2001.


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