Accountability Education Industry Testing

Peter Greene: Better Tests Are Always “On the Way” Yet Never Arrive

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Today, the New York Times has an article extolling the virtue of annual tests. It is written by someone who worked in the Obama administration and now works for Andrew Rotherhan’s Bellweather Partners, a consulting group. The writer claims that we learn a great deal from annual testing, and that better tests, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, are on the way (PARCC and SBAC). Of course, it is very hard to learn anything about how any child is progressing when the results from spring testing are delivered in August and when no one is allowed to see either the questions or the answers. But he doesn’t go into that.


Peter Greene answers the article succinctly. It is a must-read, Peter Greene at his incisive best. He calls the article:


A mishmosh of false assumptions. First, there are no “necessary” tests, nor have a ever read a convincing description of what a “necessary” test would be nor what would make it “necessary.” And while there are no Big Standardized Tests that are actually designed for school benchmarking and teacher evaluation, in many states that is the only purpose of the BS Test! The only one! So in Aldeman’s view, would those tests be okay because they are being used for purposes for which they aren’t designed?


And he adds:


New, better tests have been coming every year for a decade. They have never arrived. They will never arrived. It is not possible to create a mass-produced, mass-graded, standardized test that will measure the educational quality of every school in the country. It is like trying to use a ruler to measure the weight of a fluid– I don’t care how many times you go back to drawing board with the ruler– it will never do the job. Educational quality cannot be measured by a standardized test. It is the wrong tool for the job, and no amount of redesign will change that.


Good reminder though that while throwing money at public schools is terrible and stupid, throwing money at testing companies is guaranteed awesome.


Annual standardized testing measures one thing– how well a group of students does at taking an annual standardized test. That’s it. Even Aldeman here avoids saying what exactly it is that these tests (you know, the “necessary ones”) are supposed to measure.


Annual standardized testing is good for one other thing– making testing companies a buttload of money. Beyond that, they are simply a waste of time and effort.



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