Consider that the implementation of No Child Left Behind, known as the era of high-stakes testing, began in 2002 under president George W. Bush, and that Race to the Top, which critics call NCLB  “on steroids” for its reliance on standardized testing, began in 2009 under President Obama. Now read these passages and guess when they were written:

Testing has assumed a prominent role in recent efforts to improve the quality of  education …. Policymakers believe that testing sets meaningful standards to which school systems, schools, teachers, and students can aspire; that test data can help shape instruction; that it serves important accountability purposes; and that coupled with effective incentives and/or sanctions, testing is a powerful engine of change. Proponents point with pride to rising test scores.


Recent studies raise questions about whether improvements in test score performance actually signal improvement in learning … Other critics take issue with the narrowness of content of such tests, their match with curriculum and instruction, their neglect of higher level thinking skills, and the relevance and meaingfulness of their multiple choice. … According to these and others, rather than exerting a positive influence ons tudents’ learning, testing has trivialized the learning and instruction process, has distorted the curriculum, and usurped valuable instructional time…


These quotes were part of a pilot study called “The Effects of Testing on Teaching and Learning,” by Joan Herman, Jeanne Dreyfus and Shari Golan from the UCLA Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing — in November 1990.

For well over two decades now, public schools have been subjected to wave after wave of reform in which the results of standardized tests have had increasing stakes for students, teachers, schools, districts and even states. The promise was that the test data would “drive” instruction and “drive” things to improve.

The promise was already hollow back in 1990. When will someone in charge at the federal level call this the failure that it is and move on?