A friend shared with me a concept about the timing of standardized tests that I hadn’t appreciated before. If the test is early in the year, it can be used as a tool for the teacher to help the teacher understand a student’s strengths and weaknesses. If the test is late in the year, the state is basically just using my kid as a tool to measure the teacher — based, I might add, on sketchy metrics. (“Don’t worry about what you’re measuring, just give me a number!”)
These tests are a waste of time and money. Finland, one of the world’s best educational systems, takes one externalized, high stakes test at the end of high school. That’s it. It would make some vendors very sad (and much poorer) but we could save my kids a lot of time and our school systems a lot of time if we chucked these tests.
Might even be easier to just ask the teachers how their students are doing — if you trust and respect the teachers as professionals, that is.
The state always makes a big deal about insuring that kids have 180 instructional days when there are snow delays and such, but don’t have a problem taking 20-30 days out of instructional time for testing.
As you pointed out, testing makes vendors happy, which makes politicians happy and provides an easy, yet worthless metric, to “measure” teachers. Total sham.
Here is a personal example. One of my children posted a “no-score” on the English writing portion of ISTEP one year. He simply couldn’t wrap his head around the question and how he was supposed to answer. He told us it wasn’t obvious to him if he should answer with something based in reality or fantasy. Of course he also scored a perfect math score, a perfect i-Read score and is in the gifted program. Unfortunately, according to the state he is not very good at English and his teacher did a poor job.
And good point about the snow/instructional days.
Carlito Brigante says
Testing is a proto-typical American response to an issue. The more complex the problem (educating American children for a 21st century world), the simpler the solution must be. (Standardized testing.)
Getting legislators, who know nothing about educating people or assessment, will have a difficult time backing out of this silliness, just as legislators have serious trouble backing out of draconian jail terms and chintzing on jails that produce nothing but recidivism. Once into stupid, it’s really hard to back out of it. Constant summative testing (end of course, end of year assessment) is like constantly taking the temperature of a bunch of patients failing to treat them, and patting yourself on the back when one or two survive.
Carlito, you’re right on about the demand for simplistic answers. Of course, legislators demand simplistic answers so they can devise simplistic “solutions”, but because the “answers” are simplistic reductions, the solutions fail to adequately address the problem. Being rigid demagogues, their solutions must be correct, even when the data say they are not. Failing to learn from history, pi = 2.