Full Statement of the Association of Business Leaders for Education (ABLE) on High-Stakes Standardized Testing

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts relies on a high-quality public education system to prepare students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthen our social fabric and economic well-being.

As Massachusetts business people and employers, we need employees who are literate and numerate, but we also need people with a range of other essential skills and qualities, including:

  • The curiosity to want to learn about our businesses and how to help them thrive and improve.
  • The ability to think critically in order to sort out fact from fiction and analyze complex materials and data sets.
  • The creativity and imagination to develop innovative solutions to the problems we face.
  • The ability to take initiative and not wait to be told what to do.
  • Good interpersonal and communications skills, including multicultural competency, so they can collaborate effectively.

As business leaders and citizens, we have an interest in supporting a public education system with the resources and capacity to foster these skills.

However, for more than 25 years, our public school teachers and students have spent large amounts of time and energy preparing for high-stakes standardized tests. There is mounting evidence that the state accountability system’s overreliance on test scores to measure student achievement and judge school quality has undermined efforts to provide a broad range of learning experiences.

It has blocked the promotion of students’ innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking  and subject-matter knowledge, skills that are essential for students to thrive in an increasingly global and constantly shifting economy.

Worse, there is evidence that the focus on preparing students for narrow standardized tests is undermining the very skills and qualities we want and need our employees to have.

The evidence shows that the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused damage in too many schools, including:

  • Narrowing the curriculum to just the tested subjects, teaching to the test, reducing the joy and love of learning.
  • Pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate.
  • Causing negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and disproportionately for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities.

We believe the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students.

For all of the above reasons, we the undersigned business leaders call on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools.