There is much evidence to support the fact that assessment, defined
primarily as standardized testing since the early 1900s, has had a
number of deletrious effects on schools, on instruction, and
particularly on children who are poor or who are members of dominated
groups. Indeed it has been well documented that standardized tests assess
low-level, decontextualized facts; are often used as the sole measure of
achievement and capability, despite the fact that they provide a
fragmented picture of the learner; and frequently drive curriculum and
instruction, particularly in poor and low-achieving districts, so that
children who need the most enriched instruction are subjected to
meaningless drill designed solely to improve their tests scores.
When assessments are used as sorting and categorizing devices, they
invariably short-change children of color and poor children who, too
often, end up being funneled into lower or non-academic tracks where
they are more likely to received a watered-down, concept-poor curriculum.
Invariably, standardized assessment practices have placed poor children
and children of color in a cycle of frustration and failure. Interrupting
this cycle requires assessments that can more fully and accurately reveal
all that children do know. Assessment ought to be defined as a tool for
child-centered instruction so that the needs of each student can be
defined and addressed. Assessment should be used to build communities of
learners rather than to separate children into isolated ability groups.
Ultimately, when assessment and equity are inextricably entwined,
children are included rather than excluded.
A. Lin Goodwin
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