Boston Globe - Suzanne Ryan
As Massachusetts education officials consider giving students additional MCAS exams, many parents and teachers are complaining that students are tested too much already. It's a nationwide debate, actually, as school systems grapple with a new federal law that requires states to test students in math and reading every year from third to eighth grade.
...[I]n a fascinating and timely documentary, PBS's "Frontline" series tackles this national discussion, and how the push to raise test scores is changing the way students learn in America. ...
"Testing Our Schools" takes a thorough look at the debate about public school reform. There are many voices crying out for and against change. This documentary captures the complexity involved in any solution.
Los Angeles Times - Richard Lee Colvin
The sides in the sometimes hysterical debate over testing in our nation's public schools are well established.
Many educators, and some parents, protest that judging schools by their test scores undermines learning as well as teaching, substituting memorization and drilling. Supporters, including President Bush and some key Democrats, contend that tests are an accountability tool that forces schools to analyze their practices to improve on their shortcomings. But as John Merrow's uneven "Frontline" documentary ... makes plain, the issue is too complex for those pro or con formulations. The hourlong report, "Testing Our Schools," is keyed to the recent passage of the federal education reform legislation. ...
Merrow, as usual, does his homework in raising pertinent questions about the strategy. Are tests accurate enough? Are some types of tests better than others? Do they cover the right topics? Do tests measure the effectiveness of teaching or the relative affluence of the students who take them? What's the connection between students' motivation and their scores?
The answers he offers are, necessarily, still tentative. But even as he raises the issues, Merrow provides fodder for the backers of testing. He shows us two schools in Virginia where the efforts of educators devoted to teaching students the state standards are paying off in dramatic fashion. And in interviews with teachers in Richmond, where few students pass state exams, he showcases what President Bush calls the "bigotry of low expectations." ...
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Jane Elizabeth
With President George Bush's renewed emphasis on "accountability," statewide tests taken in schools across the country are quickly becoming the ticket for students to move up to the next grade level, or even to graduate. Hence the term "high-stakes tests." But PBS's "Testing Our Schools" makes it clear that the stakes often have little to do with students and learning.
PBS deserves credit for tackling the school testing issue, a rather dry topic that doesn't lend itself to flashy video or compelling music. But stick with "Testing" and you'll learn something important about the future of your students, teachers and schools. ...
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