Testing Mania and Testing Abuse: When Will We Realize That Testing Gone Wild Does Not a Better School System Make.

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!!

Have hope.

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.


4 responses to “Testing Mania and Testing Abuse: When Will We Realize That Testing Gone Wild Does Not a Better School System Make.

  1. Jackie Foil Retired

    When will they ever learn?!!!!


  2. “Everything that counts can’t be measured and everything that can be measured doesn’t count.”
    This truism escapes the notice of the corporate leadership of the public schools. NCLB (the revisions to the ESEA that ushered in the era of test or perish) was built on flawed assumptions about what the tests tell us. Not only do they not tell us how to improve student performance as Peter points out, they don’t even tell us if students are actually reading or if they are reading material that challenges tehm to think deeply.
    The most efficient way to determine what students can read is to ask them to read a page from a text aloud and note that if they make more than 5 errors in the first 100 words the text is too difficult for them to read independently. (This is the five finger test that most elementary school teachers teach students for picking out library books.) This doesn’t tell you if the student will actually read the book and engage with the contents.
    Harry Potter did more to improve reading performance among American school children than any test will ever do. Theyactually read and discussed the book.
    NYC began using Acuity before there was any real data on its validity or reliability and provided (actually paid the publisher) the data set that is now being used to demonstrate the efficacy of the test. But like all rading tests, it merely confirms what teachers who are working with their students know, which students are struggling.
    The time spent testing students could be better spent working with teachers on techniques to help struggling readers, especially older struggling readers, and finding books and book equivalents that students will actually read.
    When the standard for reading was that students will read 25 books or book equivalents a year we were on the right track to making this a truly literate nation. When the corporate leaders decided this standard was too vague, they set back the movement to literacy by decades.


  3. The Networks/Clusters are all getting the Apple tablets, (the 64Gb at 900$+ each) for their staff members. They all already have Blackeberries or I- phones. The salaries are mostly at the Administrator level. There is enough paper and bottled water at the C.F.N.s to paper mache every school in N.Y. Money is hemorrhaging out of the central offices. This is about control, not money.
    Schools in remote areas such as Alaska have been using the internet and remote learning for decades. The technology on the I-Pad is amazing. With this device one could argue that classsrooms are no longer necessary. These devices can be programed and monitored remotely. The security programs allow tight password controls, so testing could be done on the machine and the results can be transmited instantly ans securely. A principal could collect lesson plans and test data anywhere there is an internet signal. A student could receive and complete an assignment in the same way. Every keystroke can and wiil be recorded. Unlike a laptop they are light and durable and much cheaper than a teacher or a library. Big brother is here. Be nice to your administrators.
    They don’t even have to go for the 64Mb I-Pad. For about 600$ a machine the Board can reduce staff and rent, eventually eliminating the need for brick and mortar schools and teachers all together.


  4. Harold Rothstein

    The move to more and more testing is clearly linked to the attack on public education and the move to privatize it. Testing is just one more of the ‘businesses” that are “cropping up”.


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