"China beats the United States in standardized testing and will graduate seven times more engineers than we will this year. Those engineers in China can perform some of the most difficult calculations flawlessly. But almost none of them can create anything."
With that quote from then-MSU Professor Dr. Yong Zhao during a Michigan House Education committee hearing in 2010, I began to question high-stakes testing. I mean, I knew that China, with its communist system where most lived way below American standards, wasn't the engine of innovation. But if they had that many more engineers who did excellent on international standard tests, how could those engineers not be great? Great test scores equaled great students...right? Wrong. Just the opposite could be true. Within three years I would go from being one of the legislature's strongest advocates for high-stakes testing ("gotta hold teachers accountable") to one of the leaders opposing and stopping them.
Looking further into the work of Dr. Zhao and former Texas State Superintendent, Robert Scott (who did a 180 on high-stakes testing), brought me to the understanding that the more a state makes their statewide tests high-stakes, the more effort is made to focus instruction on whatever is on the test...to the detriment of all other instruction. What happens is a child no longer gets a well-rounded education. I've talked to superintendents. They tell me that with greater focus on the MEAP, they have seen band, art, sciences and many other classes disappear. If it's not on the test, the state is saying that it's not very important. And what school or district wants to be seen as having declining test scores?
Bottom line: Creativity is killed.