The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) criticized standardized testing at its recent annual meeting, highlighting its limitations and negative effects on education. The council vowed to address these issues by merging evaluation and learning, empowering English teachers to evaluate and critique language-arts tests, and developing alternative assessment models. The heavy emphasis on testing was highlighted as a misguided approach by Sheila M. Fitzgerald, the president of NCTE, who argued that the characteristics of tests are often overlooked. Fitzgerald pointed out that standardized tests only provide a snapshot of students’ understanding, fail to measure knowledge over time, and have limitations in assessing certain skills. Additionally, she expressed concerns about the negative impact of labeling students, the reliance on commercial materials, and the narrowing of the curriculum to fit the test’s limited scope. According to Fitzgerald, this devalues classroom work and contributes to higher dropout rates. She also raised doubts about the sacrifices made to achieve higher test scores, questioning whether the quality of education has been compromised. The issue of standardized testing was a major topic of discussion during the conference, with educators expressing concerns about its impact on curriculum, classroom instruction, and students. Neil Ellman, a teacher from New Jersey, argued that testing has become an end in itself, replacing actual instruction. This has led to demands from outside influences, such as legislators, parents, and businessmen, to align teaching with what the tests measure. Ellman criticized standardized tests for failing to consider individual student pacing, mastery of knowledge, holistic teaching and learning methods, literature study, creativity, and higher-order thinking skills. He emphasized that teachers and students perceive that these things are not valued due to the emphasis on testing. Nancy S. McHugh, an English teacher from Los Angeles, echoed the sentiments by stating that testing mandates have increased the time spent on test preparation, negatively impacting the overall quality of education. The NCTE passed resolutions to address these concerns and work towards improving the education system.
The council reasserted its dedication to affirmative action and equal opportunities in education and its internal affairs. Additionally, they urged publishers to present a more comprehensive understanding of human history and provide an "adequate and accurate" portrayal of racial and ethnic minority groups in American history and literature.
During the conference, Shirley Brice Heath, the author of Ways With Words: Language, Life, and Work in Communities and Classrooms, was granted the prestigious David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English by the ncte. Ms. Heath, a respected education professor at Stanford University, was praised for her research on language development in children from two different rural South Carolina communities—one predominantly white and the other predominantly black. Her book, which documents the study, was commended for significantly enhancing our comprehension of the role of language in education.
The ncte also announced that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would receive the "Doublespeak Award" for this year. This award is bestowed upon the most prominent instance of language that is deceitful, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-contradictory, as determined by the ncte. The CIA was selected as the winner for their creation of a "Psychological Warfare Manual" meant for rebels opposing the Nicaraguan government, as revealed by William Lutz, the chairman of the Doublespeak committee. According to Lutz, the manual provided guidance on how to use violence selectively to "neutralize" Nicaraguan officials.