Comparing U.S. and Chinese Public School Systems
USINFO | 2014-01-03 14:34
Both U.S. and Chinese schools use tracking systems and high stakes tests, but their use and the goals for their use vary greatly. For example, in China, tests are administered at then posterior of every school year to determine whether students in one grade level have acquired the skills that they will need in the next level. If students fail this exam, they are afforded the opportunity to take the exam until they pass. This can be difficult for some students, and ultimately results in some students dropping out of the school system all together.

In Contrast, in the U.S., tracking systems are used to separate below average students, from average students, from above average students. Each state has different regulations for school tracking systems, and each local government has different regulations as well. This results in a wide variability between tracking systems across the U.S. In general, class composition in the U.S. is more homogeneous since students are placed in classes according to their ability level. Students sometimes choose which level they want to be placed in, but most of the time students are arranged into levels by the use of high stakes tests. 

In many US schools, tracking systems are synonymous with racially identifiable groups . In a study conducted by Mickelson and Heath (1999), it was discovered that African American students were disproportionately found in lower tracks . It is contended that high stakes tests are a way to segregate schooling for students . The results of this study demonstrate that segregated schooling has negative academic outcomes on students, and desegregated learning environments benefit African American student's academic performances .

High stakes tests, specifically reading tests, are test administered to students with highly consequential outcomes for students, teachers and schools . Outcomes can be positive or negative, with the negative scores having a more permanent and negative consequences for students, teachers and schools than the positive scores lead to positive outcomes. For example, negative outcomes may include placing students in low achieving classrooms, labeling teachers and schools as failing, the revoking of state funding for schools, removal of teachers from a school, and non-support of a school by its community . Positive outcomes include student promotion, placement in high ability classes, the label of a successful school, and community support .

Many educated people in the U.S. feel that the use of high stakes tests is divisive and hurtful to student learning. One liability of high stakes tests is that they continue to be used despite the fact that scientific evidence and research do not show any link between increased testing to increased reading achievement . In addition, high stakes tests are limited in their ability to describe the reading achievement of students . Lastly, high stakes tests use resources like time and money, which could be used otherwise to increase reading achievement among students .

Other people contend that an increase in high stakes testing in the U.S. is a way to increase accountability of schools and teachers and therefore increase student achievement. Evidence, however, shows that the increased use of high stakes testing has had a devastating effect on low SES students, as well as on ESL (English as a second language) students. High stakes tests are unfair to these students as the tests expect these students to do as well as other more privileged students (who speak English), or else sanctions against the student, teachers and school may result. Because high stakes tests are harmful to student's self-esteem and motivation , they may be one of the factors responsible for the high drop out rates in the U.S.
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