In the world of sports teams win or lose and millions of dollars are on the line. A winning team means bowl games and fan/alumni support. In the private sector profit equals rising stock prices. In the world of education success or failure is determined by student test scores on standardized tests.
For decades students in one elementary grade and one middle school grade were tested in English and Mathematics and high school students either by an exit exam or graduation rates.
It all changed in 2002.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB), a federal statute, required testing in grades 3-8 each year. States set goals called Adequate Yearly Progress (See US Dept of Ed guidelines here) and failure to reach AYP goals results in Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI) status and eventually direct state intervention.
The carrot (or, according to your politics, pieces of silver) dangled billions in the Race to the Top competition and forced states to institute teacher evaluation regulations that required the use of student achievement data – ignoring the growing research that student achievement data massaged by a value-added algorithm is a flawed system for teacher assessment.. (See Linda Darling-Hammond and others researchers here)
After a testing schedule kerfuffle that resulted in the firing of the NYS Director of Testing the State Education Department released new testing dates and hours of testing. Test days were increased from five to six and the testing time increased for each day. The additional questions are required to validate test items for future exams, not for student assessment.
Two or so years down the road the 24-state coalition, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) assessmentswill replace current state assessments. New York State belongs to the consortium that will administer four, that right four tests a year in grades 3-11 in the range of content areas (see chart detailing plans here)
As test mania engulfs our education system the highest functioning education systems in the world – Finland and South Korea and Singapore give scant attention to testing, except as a gateway to post secondary education.(See descriptions of the Finnish education system here and here). And, BTW, Finnish teachers are wholly unionized and have a 200-page contract – longer than the UFT contract.
The PARCC website lauds the upcoming testing regimen,
PARCC is a 24-state consortium working together to develop next-generation K-12 assessments in English and math. PARCC benefits:
Students who will know if they are on track to graduate ready for college and careers
Teachers with regular results available to guide learning and instruction
Parents with clear and timely information about the progress of their children
States with valid results that are comparable across the member states
The nation as it is based on college- and career-ready, internationally-benchmarked CCSS.
With Acuity the McGraw-Hill interim testing tool and other predictive assessments teachers are overwhelmed with data – data that tells them what they already know. Some students struggle – what Acuity or the PARCC assessments don’t divine is how you make Juan and Mary do their homework, read at home, pay attention and make progress. PARCC assessments won’t make parents more involved in their children’s education.
In June, 2006 Senator Obama said,
“There’s a saying in Illinois I learned when I was down in a lot of rural communities. They said, ‘Just weighing a pig doesn’t fatten it.’ You can weigh it all the time, but it’s not making the hog fatter.
“So the point being, if all we’re doing is testing and then teaching to the test, that doesn’t assure that we’re actually improving educational outcomes.
“We do need to have accountability, however. We do need to measure progress with our kids.
“Maybe it’s just one standardized test, plus portfolios of work that kids are doing, plus observing the classroom.
Unfortunately President Obama didn’t listen to Senator Obama.
Test mania is running wild.
Although the PARCC website is silent on the question of the use of new assessments to evaluate and remunerate teachers you better bet that testing is irrevocably tied to teacher assessment. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t plotting against you!!
Somewhere in some laboratory a wonky scientist is finishing up work on a knowledge chip that can be stapled into a kid’s earlobe and download learnings day by day and some venture capitalist is figuring out how to monetize the chip.
Or, maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn from the Finns.