Tuesday, April 24, 2012

High-Stakes Testing and U.S.-Mexican Youth in Texas: The Case for Multiple Compensatory Criteria in Assessment

"With the recent re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
(ESEA) that calls for testing at virtually every grade level, a growing debate is taking
place regarding the utility of mass, but especially high-stakes, testing whereby schools,
principals, teachers, and students are held accountable for increased children’s
achievement (e.g., Scheurich et al. 2000; Scheurich and Skrla 2000; Valencia et al.
2001).1 Proponents of the current system of accountability in Texas, which does have
high-stakes testing as its linchpin, see the system as bringing attention to previously
under-served African American and Mexican American children, the majority of whom
are poor (Scheurich et al. 2000; Scheurich and Skrla 2000; Skrla et al. 2000a, 2000b).2
“High stakes” testing extends beyond the concept of standardized testing to denote the
attaching of high-stakes consequences (like retention, promotion, or graduation) to test
performance (Heuber and Hauser 1999).

Opponents take issue not with the concept of accountability, but rather with the
high stakes that are attached to the tests themselves,
as well as to their collateral effects,
including the marginalizing of curriculum, children, or both
(McNeil 2000; McNeil and
Valenzuela 2001). Sloan (forthcoming) reconciles these perspectives by suggesting that
while proponents have an “outside-in” view, critics possess an “inside-out” perspective.
In other words, proponents view the classroom from the outside (i.e., a “top-down”
and note that previously under-served children have been accorded greater
teacher and administrative attention. Critics, on the other hand, look at high-stakes
testing policies from the perspective of the classroom where they witness the collateral
brought about by such high pressures to generate positive performance. These
include narrowing the curriculum by teaching to the test; marginalizing children, their
languages and cultures
; and gaming” the system such as by retaining children in grade
or relegating them to test-exempt status categories to produce positive test results and
school ratings

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