Opinion

Public Issues Forum | What should be the role of standardized tests?

With the passage of No Child Left Behind more than 10 years ago, we entered the era of “accountability” in public education.

Since that time, federal law has mandated that every student in multiple grades be tested annually in math, language arts and now science. The intent was to close the “achievement gap.”

The so-called achievement gap remains, but the strategy of state standardized testing has since expanded to include holding teachers accountable for the progress of individual students, as measured by these tests.

In many states, performance reviews — and perhaps careers — are at stake.

In Pennsylvania, high school students must now pass a series of three tests (the Keystone exams in language, math and biology) to earn a diploma.

Do these tests serve a useful purpose? What are their limitations?

Do they measure what we think they measure, what we consider to be important? Is our investment in time and money justified?

Just a few weeks ago, Michelle Rhee argued on these pages that standardized testing is essential to a quality education.

But some parents are beginning to say, “enough is enough.”

What do you think?

The articles on this page offer several perspectives on a very complex subject.

Until now, the average citizen has been largely missing from this conversation. This is your invitation to join it.

The primary goal of Public Issues Forums is to provide an opportunity for citizens to work through complex, controversial issues such as this in a way that allows us get to the heart of what is important to each of us.

Issues are addressed from multiple perspectives to avoid the “debate” dynamic that is common in public discourse — but that seldom results in constructive outcomes.

An explicit goal of any forum is to have those who attend come to a better understanding of why people with different viewpoints see the issue the way they do; another is to discover our areas of common ground for moving forward.

Your voice is important. Please join us Thursday.

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