Measuring temperature with a tablespoon...

Standardized testing has a place in our schools. Yes, you did read that correctly. It should have the same place it had if you went to school before 1990. A small place, a non-stressful place, a private place where scores are used to help students and are not on big data bases. It is high stakes standardized tests that, in my personal opinion, have no place in our schools. What is the difference? Keep reading. Every citizen should know...

The first thing you must know is that the source of your information is of the utmost importance. The US government and many non-profit organizations call themselves education reformers. See this site. These folks want changes and do not want any democratic process in creating these reforms. Not one vote has been made to endorse what they want. They hire Madison Avenue PR firms and try to convince the public that their perspective is the only perspective. Which of course, it is not. Their definition of a high stakes standardized test is as follows:

"A high-stakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, most commonly for the purpose of accountability—i.e., the attempt by federal, state, or local government agencies and school administrators to ensure that students are enrolled in effective schools and being taught by effective teachers. In general, “high stakes” means that test scores are used to determine punishments (such as sanctions, penalties, funding reductions, negative publicity), accolades (awards, public celebration, positive publicity), advancement (grade promotion or graduation for students), or compensation (salary increases or bonuses for administrators and teachers)."

Their definition pretty much explains why I do not support high stakes standardized testing. Let me explain...

If you think back to your own childhood (assuming you are over 30 here), you may recall a day or two of standardized testing a year. The test scores were reported back to the schools and the schools decided how to utilize the results to help students. Period.

High stakes tests of today are used in many ways, most of them to penalize students (Think Keystone Exams), schools, and teachers. These tests were never designed to be used in these high stakes ways.

"For several important reasons, standardized achievement tests should not be used to judge the quality of education. The overarching reason that students' scores on these tests do not provide an accurate index of educational effectiveness is that any inference about educational quality made on the basis of students' standardized achievement test performances is apt to be invalid.
Employing standardized achievement tests to ascertain educational quality is like measuring temperature with a tablespoon. Tablespoons have a different measurement mission than indicating how hot or cold something is. Standardized achievement tests have a different measurement mission than indicating how good or bad a school is. Standardized achievement tests should be used to make the comparative interpretations that they were intended to provide. They should not be used to judge educational quality. Let's look at three significant reasons that it is thoroughly invalid to base inferences about the caliber of education on standardized achievement test scores." (Emphasis mine) Read more here.

I believe in accountability, but as an expert in my field, I know that standardized test scores don't actually hold schools or teachers accountable. They do however, destroy communities, close schools, fail students, withhold diplomas, kill passion for learning, and often for teaching. The politicians and non-profit folks who promote these education reforms seem to send their children to private schools, so maybe they aren't as invested in public education as the rest of us. Or maybe they are invested, but in a totally different way... like financially invested.

“I will not take the time here to unpack the strategic plan coordinated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and three people within the Department of Education who have turned their strategic plan into a public policy called 'The Race to the Top.' You should read Diane Ravitch’s new book to get a clear picture of how this has all been done very legally with the help of the best lawyers that money can buy, millions of dollars thrown at the Harvard Education Department, and with tens of millions of dollars to hire the best Madison Ave. Advertising and PR firms and the best web designers (go to “PARCC” or “Common Core” online). What you need to know is that none of the people behind this plan have any respect for public schools or public school teachers." Read more here.

If you haven't read Reign of Error yet, it is not too late. Take a look here.

Also, check out fairtest's arguments against high stakes standardized testing. "The materials selected for this page make the case against relying on test scores to make critical educational decisions about students or schools - or what is called high stakes testing. Common examples include retaining a child in grade or withholding a students high-school diploma solely on the basis their score on a test, or relying on test scores to determine whether a teacher or school should be sanctioned or rewarded.
A large body of evidence exists against using standardized tests for such decisions. New evidence is being collected as states and district increasingly use tests for such purposes. This page presents the arguments and evidence to help you build a case against high-stakes testing in your own community."

Write me if you have specific concerns or questions. This impacts all of our schools, urban, suburban, and rural. Time is of the essence. I want our public schools to be around for my grandchildren and their children, do you?


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