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What Can Student Drawings Tell Us About High-Stakes Testing in Massachusetts?


by Anne Wheelock, Damian J. Bebell & Walt Haney November 02, 2000

Many high-stakes testing policies rest on the belief that attaching consequences to test scores will persuade students of the importance of academics and will motivate them to exert greater effort to achieve at passing levels. This investigation explores this assumption through an examination of students' drawings of themselves taking the Massachusetts high-stakes test. Student drawings conveyed a range of opinions about test difficulty, length, and content. A small minority of drawings depicted students as diligent problem-solvers and thinkers. A larger percentage of drawings portrayed students as anxious, angry, bored, pessimistic, or withdrawn from testing. The overall patterns that emerge challenge the belief that the high stakes associated with MCAS will enhance the motivation and effort of students in a uniform way.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: November 02, 2000
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10634, Date Accessed: 4/23/2014 1:21:53 PM

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About the Author
  • Anne Wheelock
    Independent Education Policy Writer & Researcher
    E-mail Author
    Anne Wheelock, an independent education policy analyst and writer, is author of Crossing the Tracks: How 'Untracking' Can Save America's Schools (1992) and Safe To Be Smart: Building a Culture for Standards-Based Reform in the Middle Grades (1998). She is also co-author (with Christina Capodilupo) of a research analysis of Massachusetts dropout rates in the era of high stakes testing, posted on line at http://www.fairtest.org/care/MCAS%20Alert%20Sept.html.
  • Damian Bebell
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    Damian J. Bebell is a doctoral student at Boston College where he is employed at the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Research (CSTEEP). His research interests include educational philosophy, alternative forms of assessment, and addressing student perspectives in education. His related work with the Massachusetts Teacher Test is on line at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n4/.
  • Walt Haney
    Boston College
    E-mail Author
    Walt Haney, Ed.D., Professor of Education at Boston College and Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Testing Evaluation and Educational Policy (CSTEEP), specializes in educational evaluation and assessment and educational technology. He has published widely on testing and assessment issues in scholarly journals such as the Harvard Educational Review, Review of Educational Research, and Review of Research in Education and in wide-audience periodicals such as Educational Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Washington Post. His recent work, "The Myth of the Texas Miracle in Education" can be found on line at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n41/. Also, a recent discussion of the gap between testing and technology in schools is available at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n19.html
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