Rochester NY’s Coalition for Public Education, in collaboration with the University of Rochester, Writers & Books and the Rochester Teachers Association recently began a “community read” project using Daniel Koretz’s book, “The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better.” The project involves having as many community members as possible read the book and/or attending a presentation by Dan Koretz, and attending one or more of several discussion/problem-solving/action meetings to generate alternatives to high-stakes standardized testing to education policy-makers.

These are the key points that organizers of the Rochester Coalition for Public Education circulated to readers of the Koretz book:



  1. Education policy makers have created and implemented many non-research-based and harmful practices in the name of accountability, including the following:
  • Basing teacher evaluation scores, to a significant degree, on test scores of students who have significant variables in their lives that negatively impact their growth and development.
  • Holding English as Second Language students, who have little or no English language experience, accountable for passing standardized English exams, after only one year of learning English.
  • Using unreliable, invalid, non-field-tested standardized tests to hold students accountable,
  • Holding all students accountable for meeting grade-level expectations, when some students may not be developmentally ready or may be deprived of the resource help they need.
  • Punishing students, teachers & school communities, by labeling them as failures.


  1. High-stakes standardized test scores are often inflated for some of the following reasons:
    • Teachers focusing on “teaching-to-the-test,” rather than student interests and areas not often tested, like citizenship, music and current social problems,
    • Some students and/or teachers “cheat,”
    • Middle & upper class students may receive “paid” extra tutoring,
    • Some students are taught skills for more accurately guessing correctly.


  1. Standardized tests can have a useful role, if the following criteria were used more often:
    • Used for diagnostic vs. “high-stakes purposes,”
    • Test student sample populations vs. every student,
    • Set realistic, appropriate test score goals for individual students,
    • Use “performance-based” vs. memorize and regurgitate tasks,
    • Piloted for validity and reliability, before implemented,
    • Test what is important, and
    • Use human judgment as part of the process.

Koretz states: “ The problem is not tests. The problem is the misuse of tests. Tests can be a useful tool, but policymakers have demanded far more of them than is reasonable, and this has backfired. Used appropriately, standardized tests are a valuable source of information, sometimes an irreplaceable one. For example, how do we know that the achievement gap between minority and majority students has been slowly narrowing, while the gap between rich and poor students has been growing?”


  1. “Campbell’s Law,” generally states that whenever a socio-economic goal is reduced to a number, corruption and perversion of the process to attain that goal is inevitable. This phenomena is demonstrated in a number of ways, including: cheating, teaching to the test, ignoring student needs and interests, and creating invalid teacher evaluation systems that devalue the role of teacher judgment.


  1. The high-stakes standardized exam-driven, approach to school reform has been a huge failure. Koretz

states: “If you line up the effects of this approach, the answer is clear: It has been a failure. The improvements it has produced have been limited, and these are greatly outweighed by the serious damage it has done. Of course, in many places, improvements appeared to be big, but most often, this was just inflated test scores.”




  • October 11th, Thursday, 4:00-6:00 pm at Nazareth College, Golisano Academic Complex, Room 211, led by Professor Shawgi Tell
  • October 15th, Monday, 7:00-9:00 pm at St. John Fisher College, Mid-level Gateway Room, Basil Hall, led by Professor Jeffrey Liles
  • October 18th, Thursday, 7:00-9:00 pm at Writers & Books, 740 University Avenue, led by Rochester Coalition for Public Education Coordinator, Dan Drmacich
  • October 29th, Monday, 7:00-9:00 pm, at Pittsford Barnes & Noble, led by Howard Maffucci, former East Rochester Superintendent & current Monroe County Legislator
  • November 8th, Thursday, 3:45-4:45, LaChase Hall, Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education, University of Rochester, led by Professor David Hursh


Please go to our website, to register to attend any of these discussion/problem-solving/action meetings. Our objective is to submit well thought-out proposals to our educational policy-makers for meaningful change in our current public school tests. Please get involved and bring your ideas and colleagues. You need not have read Koretz’s book to be involved, but we do encourage reading the first two and the last chapter of his book: The Testing Charade: Pretending to Make Schools Better.