The Overuse of “Overuse”

Eight years ago when I started Schools Matter, Texas had four high stakes tests that high school students had to pass to get a diploma.  Most recently, they devised plans to add 11 more.  When parents and teachers gagged, the state Legislature began to waver, so that now it looks like they will only add one test, for a total of five instead of 15.

Obviously, some people believe that adding one test instead of 11 represents some kind of moral victory for the foes of high stakes testing.   Even a new phrase has appeared that now acknowledges “the overuse of high stakes testing.”  As if there were some use of high stakes testing that was not an overuse.

FairTest used the phrase in an op-ed recently, and when I asked Monty Neill what he thought would represent a high stakes test that was not overused, he accused me “nitpicking” and offered the drivers’ test as an example.  The email conversation ended with him defending his use of the term “overuse,” even though he could offered no example of an ethically-used high stakes test in schools.

The fact of the matter, of course, is that there is no use of high stakes tests in education that does not represent an overuse.  That is, any use of a high stakes test is an overused test.  Seems to me that this is an important point, rather than a nit to pick.  It’s important, I know, to some.

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