1998 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee
The use of systematically administered standardized tests continues to escalate. In many countries, states, and provinces, the results of those tests are being increasingly used to accredit schools, affirm the ongoing certification of teachers, reward schools and school districts monetarily, and determine individual student grade promotion and retention.
Historically, NCTE has viewed such large-scale, high-stakes standardized testing with serious reservations. Resolutions from 1971, 1976, 1977, 1985, and 1989 all address the limitations of standardized testing with regard to authentic assessment of the English language arts classroom. In previous resolutions, the Council has opposed “over-simplified and narrowly conceived tests of isolated skills and decontextualized knowledge,” contrasting the “tension between the breadth of the English language arts curriculum and the restrictive influence of standardized means of assessing student learning” (Resolution On Testing, 1995). Concerned about the “distortion and reduction of . . . curriculum” and the “unwise expenditure of public funds” (Resolution On Testing, 1995) on the development and administration of these tests, NCTE has also supported alternative forms of assessment, holding that “nationally normed standardized tests are a barrier to student opportunity, to the professional development of school staff, and to sound curriculum” (Resolution On the Development and Dissemination of Alternative Forms of Assessment, 1990). The “lack of fit between what the schools do to test student learning and what researchers know about students’ language development” (Resolution On Assessment, 1991) continues to be a concern today.
Today’s widely administered standardized tests are single measure and largely multiple choice; more to the point, often they do not reflect student learning. Further, such tests become disproportionately crucial regarding student grade-level progress in school. In addition, many school districts provide neither reasonable instruction regarding appropriate test-taking practices nor effective assistance for students who do not achieve the requisite scores. Finally, many testing programs do not account for differently-abled learners (through the use of multiple assessment beyond standardized, multiple choice, paper-and-pencil measures) or for learners for whom English is not their first language. Be it therefore
Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English affirm that no student be retained because of the results of standardized test scores alone;
that NCTE condemn the wholesale usurpation of the English language arts curriculum by excessive attention to test preparation;
that NCTE condemn the use of assessment instruments in English with students who are not sufficiently proficient in English;
that NCTE support ongoing teacher and student critique of test making and test taking;
that NCTE continue to support the use of alternative forms of assessment in order to ensure equitable treatment of all students;
that NCTE support teacher-developed, contextualized, and reasonable classroom instruction regarding test-taking practices for students; and
that NCTE distribute this resolution to federal and state education agencies, professional education associations, teacher unions, the media, parent groups, and appropriate organizations, and urge them to voice their support of this resolution.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.